An application by a gay massage therapist for a home-business permit in Manassas, Virginia. has been opposed by members of the community and stalled in the City Council, though the council had approved similar applications in the past.
According to the Associated Press, Howard Daniel has given massages in hospitals and at his patients’ homes.
After spending more than $800 preparing an application to start practicing in his home and enlisting the support of all his immediate neighbours, Daniel and his partner of 22 years, Richard Devine, were surprised to face opposition.
The AP reports that a group of community members had a bevy of reasons why his application should not be approved.
The city council approved both of the two previous applications they received for home-based massage businesses in the past three years, leading Daniel and his supporters to suspect discrimination.
“I think it’s obvious what’s going on here,” Devine told the AP. “It walks like a duck.”
The Washington Post reports that questions of discrimination are already sensitive in Manassas, which is currently under federal investigation for housing policies that allegedly target Hispanic residents, a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Now the city is again facing a land-use decision loaded with political overtones. At least one council member, Andrew Harrover, said to the Post that he has received threats that Daniel’s home will be picketed if the council approves his application.
“It’s going to be terribly challenging for me” to decide, said Harrover, who lives around the corner from Daniel. His wife has signed the petition in support of Daniel’s application, but Harrover said he is opposed to home businesses that bring more traffic to residential neighbourhoods.
Many of the people opposed to Daniel’s proposed home business cite similar concerns about traffic in the neighbourhood, but don’t live there. Several are members of Manassas’ All Saints Catholic Church.
“This isn’t a Catholic thing; it’s a city thing,” Amy Bookwalter, who is against Daniel’s proposal, told the Post. “This is about keeping a residential area a residential area.”
The AP reports that Daniel’s application hasn’t been rejected yet, but nobody seconded council member J Steven Randolph’s motion to approve it.
Instead, the council discussed the city’s special-use-permit code and voted to refer the matter to its land-use committee.
Three of the council’s six members have already said they’ll vote against the application if it comes up again at next Monday’s meeting.
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