The national LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal has filed a discrimination complaint on behalf of a D.C. transgender woman who says she received a check from a bartender at an Adams Morgan restaurant with the words “GAY BITCHES” written on it.
The complaint, which was filed on Monday with the D.C. Office of Human Rights, says a bartender at Bistro 18 hookah bar and restaurant at 2420 18th St., N.W., brought the check to the table where Amira Gray was sitting with eight friends, two of whom are gay men.
According to the complaint, the incident took place on Aug. 11, 2013. It says the bartender brought the check after the group “continued to be denied table service, instead requiring us on each occasion we wanted something to seek service directly at the bar.”
The complaint says that Gray, a trans woman, and her friends had seated themselves and observed that the wait staff “was attentive to customers at other tables, giving them menus and taking their orders right away, and carrying the orders to their tables but no wait staff approached our table.”
A representative of Bistro 18 couldn’t immediately be reached. Calls placed to the establishment on Wednesday led to a recorded message saying, “We are not available now. Please call again – memory full.”
“Discrimination against LGBT customers is a widespread problem that often goes unaddressed,” said Dru Levasseur, director of Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project. “That this happened in Washington, D.C., where LGBT people have strong protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and personal appearance, points out the importance of ensuring existing laws are enforced,” Levasseur said in a press release issued by the New York-based group.
Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said that privacy rules prevent the office from commenting or acknowledging a complaint has been filed before an investigation is completed and probable cause is found that discrimination has occurred.
“If a person is denied the full and equal enjoyment of a service because of their gender identity or expression in a place of public accommodation, it could constitute discrimination under the Human Rights Act depending on the specifics of the case,” Imse said.
Levasseur said that like many people encountering what they consider discriminatory action by a business, Gray did not immediately come forward to file a complaint until now. He said the D.C. Human Rights Act allows citizens to file a complaint up to one year after the alleged discriminatory action occurs.
“As a transgender woman, I was extremely hurt, embarrassed and upset,” Gray states in her complaint. “I felt that the slur was meant as a slap in the face because of my gender identity and expression, my perceived sexual orientation, my personal appearance, and my association with my friends who are or may have been perceived as being lesbian or gay.”
A photo of the receipt, which was taken by one of Gray’s friends, shows that the words, “GAY BITCHES” were written directly below the words, “Thank You for Visiting.” The photo also shows that the bill for the drinks and hookah smoking device that Gray and her friends had ordered came to $152.30. That total included a $21.42 “automatic gratuity” and $11.90 in taxes.
“When one of Gray’s friends approached the manager to bring this to his attention, the manager snatched what he thought was the offending receipt out of the man’s hands and printed a new receipt without the slur on it,” the Lambda Legal press release says. “However, Gray’s friend kept the original receipt and captured photos of it,” the release says.
According to Levasseur, a Bistro 18 manager agreed to cancel the bill and not charge the group for its purchases after the friend complained about the service they received and showed him the receipt with the slur printed on it.
“She does not feel like that is enough,” Levasseur said in explaining why Gray decided to file the complaint.
Levasseur told the Washington Blade the receipt will be submitted to the Office of Human Rights as evidence along with statements from Gray’s friends who were present as the developments unfolded.