If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you might have missed the news that the city of Buffalo has finally implemented an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
That’s because the Buffalo city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to pass the measure after months of campaigning by the local LGBT community.
The move comes as New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, which is also leading the state’s investigation into the issue, is considering whether the city has violated the state constitution’s ban on “disparate impact.”
That means a city must ensure that its policies are not being used to discriminate against any person based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, color, religion, or national origin.
And that’s exactly what the city council is doing.
“We are committed to ensuring that every individual has equal access to health care, to education, to employment, to housing, and to other public accommodations,” Mayor Byron W. Brown Jr. said in a statement Tuesday night.
“The Buffalo City Council’s decision to pass a resolution on behalf of the LGBT community to make this important step is an example of how our city is committed to working to ensure that we are not using our power to discriminate on the basis of our sexual orientation and gender identity.”
While the city’s new ordinance has been largely welcomed by the LGBT group GLAD, it has been met with a mixed response from local businesses, which have been hesitant to hire gay escorts.
As of Tuesday evening, the Buffalo City Commission had received more than 5,300 responses to a petition requesting that the ordinance be adopted.
The ordinance would ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation in the hiring of escorts in the city, the licensing and permitting of escorting agencies, the supervision of escort agencies, and the issuance of licenses for escorts to be used by gay couples.
The city council also has the power to set the criteria for the hiring and licensing of escorted individuals, including those who are transgender, gender nonconforming, or have a disability.
The council’s resolution also requires that the public health and safety director be assigned to oversee and enforce the policy.
But the ordinance has not yet been adopted, which means that the New York Civil Liberties Union is now taking its fight to court.
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf, among other LGBT organizations, of a man who was hired as a gay escort by the Buffalo-based Buffalo Gay Bar in 2015.
The man, Matthew Breslin, claims he was fired from his job at the bar after he filed a complaint with the city alleging he was discriminated against for being gay.
“My attorney said to me that the only reason why they fired me was because of my sexual orientation,” Bresli wrote in a complaint filed last year.
“I did not think that they were going to fire me because I am a gay man, I thought they were firing me because they were racist against me.”
He said he was “trying to protect my livelihood and the safety of the business.”
In the suit, Breslins attorneys argued that the mayor’s decision violated his First Amendment rights.
The Buffalo Gay Bars lawsuit is asking a federal court to declare that the Buffalo Mayor’s ordinance violates Breslins constitutional rights, because the city cannot require that gay escort agents be licensed and supervised.
“Because Buffalo’s ordinance mandates that gay people are required to be licensed as escorts and that gay men are required, as escort supervisors, to be qualified and able to manage their business, the ordinance violates the right to equal protection of the laws and the right of a public accommodation to discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation by prohibiting such gay people from employing gay men,” the lawsuit reads.
“If the Buffalo gay bar is forced to cease operation and allow its gay employees to work, it will suffer irreparable harm and will lose its business because the loss of its business would not be due to the fact that a person is gay but due to Buffalo’s discriminatory requirement that gay and lesbian escorts be licensed.”
The lawsuit also argues that the ban on gay escorting is unconstitutional because the state is not required to license or supervise gay escorted men.
“Bills and regulations that are based on the discrimination of gay people as opposed to other groups, or that are passed through the legislative process without any meaningful consideration of gay or lesbian people’s views and experiences, or are passed without any consideration of the impact on their livelihoods, health and economic security, are inherently discriminatory,” the suit reads.
The ACLU, however, is not interested in waiting for a ruling in that lawsuit.
“This is a win for LGBT people everywhere,” said Jennifer Baker, legal director at the ACLU of New York.
“Buffalo is finally moving to end the discrimination against LGBTQ people in their city.
It’s good that New York City is