Saturday, April 22, 2017

Landlord's Own Emails Expressing Concern Over 'Small-Town Gossip' Used To Sink Her In Court On Fair Housing Violations For Refusing To Rent Apartment To Same-Sex Couple (One Of Whom Is Transgender) w/ Two Minor Children; Resolution On Award Of Damage$ Pending

In Denver, Colorado, the Daily Camera reports:
  • A federal judge in Denver on Wednesday [April 5] ruled that a Gold Hill property owner violated both the Federal Housing Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to rent her property to a same-sex couple — one of whom is transgender — and their children, due to concerns about their "unique relationship."

    That ruling on an unopposed motion for partial summary judgment came in the case of Aurora residents Rachel and Tanya Smith, and their two minor children, versus Deepika Avanti, of Boulder, and was issued by U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore.

    "We're incredibly pleased with this ruling. I think of this as a groundbreaking and historic ruling," said the couple's New York-based attorney, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal.(1)

    "For the first time, a federal court has ruled that the Fair Housing Act's sex discrimination prohibitions apply to discrimination based on stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity."

    Wednesday's ruling does not establish what damages might be paid as a result of the decision.

    "There is the question of the damages and we'll be in conversation with the other side," Gonzalez-Pagan said. "We expect a quick resolution of the damages, a quick resolution of the entire case now that the liability has been determined.

    Tanya Smith, 31, said, "It's exciting and it's also humbling to be part of something that is bigger than we are. And, to be able to give something back to the LGBT community that has been like a family for us and to ensure that others will have protections now in place."

    Tanya Smith and Rachel Smith, the 30-year-old transgender woman to whom she has been married for five years, looked at property in 2015 in Gold Hill when they were moving out of their home in Erie.

    They looked at a two-bedroom apartment and a three-bedroom residence, both at 698 Dixon Road in Gold Hill, and said they were rejected because Avanti, the property owner, said she was worried about how such tenants might affect her standing in the eyes of others in that small mountain community.

    Critical to the plaintiffs' case was a series of emails received from Avanti, including one that said, according to the suit, "Your unique relationship would become the town focus, in small towns everyone talks and gossips, all of us would be the most popular subject in town, in this way I could not be a low profile" (sic).

    "We have emails documenting the rationale for the denial of housing of the Smith family," Gonzalez-Pagan said on Wednesday. "It was as pure a question of law as this court could have encountered, and the court held that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on sex stereotypes as they apply to LGBT people, and their families."
For more, see Judge: Gold Hill landlord who refused same-sex couple violated federal, state law.

For the court ruling, see Smith v. Avanti, Civil Action No. 16-cv-00091 (D. Colo. April 5, 2017).
(1) Lambda Legal is a national, non-profit law firm headquartered in New York City (with four regional offices throughout the U.S.) that specializes in the civil rights issues of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV. According to its website, Lambda Legal is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that does not charge its clients for legal representation or advocacy, receives no government funding, and depends on contributions from supporters around the country.

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