A “Sizzler” steakhouse restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens, is facing a lawsuit from Lambda Legal after the establishment’s manager reportedly assaulted a gay customer. The suit is, according to Lambda Legal, one of the first tests of a new law which allows victims of anti-gay violence to sue their attackers in civil court.
Last September, Liza Friedlander was planning to enjoy brunch with friends at “her favorite breakfast spot.” She paid for the breakfast buffet and began to serve herself, but as she walked toward her table with a plate of food, a manager aggressively approached her.
He first accused her of not paying for the breakfast buffet, but the encounter quickly escalated as the manager shoved Friedlander to the ground, kicked her in the legs, and called her a “f***ing dyke.” Screaming other offensive epithets, he told her to leave the restaurant.
The other restaurant diners, rather than leaping to Friedlander’s defense, joined in the abuse. One male customer called Friedlander a “he-she freak,” while another threw objects at Friedlander, threatening to take her outside and show her “what a d*ck is.” Friedlander’s friends frantically dialed 911, fearing that she would be killed or badly injured. She was finally taken to the hospital in an ambulance, badly battered.
“What was supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable Sunday brunch at Sizzler turned into a horrifying ordeal of discrimination, violence and degradation targeting Liza because she did not conform to the stereotypes of how a woman should look,” explained Natalie Chin, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal. The suit claims that Friedlander was attacked and discriminated against because of her perceived or actual sexual orientation, violating New York’s Civil and Human Rights Law.
The manager, unsurprisingly, is denying that any of this happened. ”I’m Hispanic. I respect people of all ethnicities, races or sexuality,” he told the NY Daily News. “I’m here to work, not hurt anyone.” He claims that Friedlander was “violent from the start,” and that she “freaked out” when the buffet ended.
One of the most disturbing parts of this story is not just the manager’s alleged violence, but the fact that the customers enthusiastically joined in the abuse. As Lane Moore points out on Jezebel, it seems like there are many witnesses to this story, but if they were engaging in the assault as well, they may not support Friedlander’s story. Either way, this case certainly seems to fall under the umbrella of “discrimination,” as well as a host of other crimes.
“Just because I don’t appear to be the Sizzler manager’s idea of what a woman should look like doesn’t mean that gives him permission to attack me and allow other customers to join in,” said Liza Friedlander. “My friends and I went in for Saturday brunch just like everyone else in the restaurant that morning, but it turned into a nightmare. No one should have to go through that.”
Photo from ep_jhu via flickr.