US: Bar owner fined £250,000 for denying service to transgender patrons
A bar owner in Oregon has been ordered to pay $400,000 (£250,000) in compensation to a group of trans women who he told to stop visiting because he didn’t want his business to be known as a “tranny bar.”
In a voicemail message left to Rose City T-Girls founder Cassandra Lynn, Mr Penner said: “I’m going to have to ask for you, Cass, and your group not to come back on Friday nights.
“I really don’t like having to do that but unfortunately it’s the area we’re in and its hurting business a lot”.
A further message left by Mr Penner stated: “I’ve done some investigating why my sales are declining and there’s two things I keep hearing: People think that A) we’re a tranny bar or B) we’re a gay bar. We are neither.
“People are not coming in because they just don’t want to be there on a Friday night now.”
Mr Penner has been charged with violating the Oregon Equality Act, a law to protect the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Oregonians in employment, housing and public places.
In the court ruling, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry demanded Mr Penner to pay a $5000 (£3,200) civil penalty, and between $25,000 (£16,000) and $50,000 (£32,000) to each of the 11 complainants.
Mr Penner denied being transphobic.
He said: “The only response I have is — how do I want to put it — we’re not an anti-gay bar. I have had gay, lesbian and transgender employees [including bar and kitchen managers]”.
According to the court’s Final Order, Mr Penner responded to the complaint in January via his attorney Jonathan Radmacher, denying that the business was a place of public accommodation and claiming that the Oregon Equality Act was an unconstitutional violation of his right to free speech.
The final hearing took place in May and included testimony from expert witness Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a board member for the Transgender Law & Policy Institute.
The bureau said it was the tenth complaint in five years of discrimination in a public place based on sexual orientation or gender identity.