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Gay Restaurant Customer Sues, Saying Manager Assaulted Her

Gay Restaurant Customer Sues, Saying Manager Assaulted Her

 

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.”

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Photo from ep_jhu via flickr.

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96 comments

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7:51PM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

Horrible. All of the people who joined in with the manager are rude, idiots who have no guts.

3:34PM PDT on Aug 21, 2011

What, so she jumped on herself and beat herself up? How can the manager deny abusing someone? The physical evidence of assault is there the moment she was taken to the hospital. No one in their right mind would just make this up and blame a stranger for doing his to her.

2:28AM PDT on Aug 13, 2011

Darlene M.: Thanks for your posting! And Ali S., unlike you I won't comment on who's at fault in this incident, since I know too little about what happened. I reserve my right to return when I have more information, like you should have done. I do not rely solely on one source of information.

10:46AM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

Hard to believe there could still be such irrational fear and prejudice in the 21st century

9:27PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

There is more to the story. It sounds as if the manager approached her first and the assault took place. Was this caught on camera? What kind of Neanderthals would join in the (alleged)attack with the manager? Speaking from the Hispanic point of view, sounds like the manager was suffering from homophobia and felt threatened. May the investigation reveal the truth.

7:41PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Let's hope the truth comes out and the guilty are prosecuted. Thanks.

7:32PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

If somebody thought I was a Lesbian (I'm not) and said he'd take me outside and "show me what a d*ck is," I'd snap back, "How are you going to manage to do that?"

7:16PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Hmm. I do not believe the other people would've reacted had she not done something to provoke a situation, and then play the Lesbian card. Common people have common sense and usually side with the party/person being attacked/abused. This is an assumption based on my own experiences.

6:43PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Ali S - it is completely believable that if a person was being assaulted, witnesses would NOT assist. View the video of the police allegedly beating a homeless man - taken with a cell phone by someone who could have assisted but instead chose to video it. Numerous videos of violence recorded by cell phones - it is the society we live in. I'm surprised that this incident at Sizzler's was not recorded by somebody.

6:41PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Violence is never acceptable, no matter a person's race, political beliefs, religion, or sexual orientation. This needs to be investigated.

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