Transgender woman files human rights complaint against Adams Morgan bar for alleged gay slur

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A legal firm that specializes in human rights and equality cases has filed a complaint against a D.C. hookah bar for allegedly referring to a transgender customer and her friends by an anti-gay slur on her receipt.

The customer, Amira Gray, alleges that she and a group of friends went to Bistro 18, a bar in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, on Aug. 11, 2013.

In her complaint, Gray says she and her friends were continuously denied table service all night, though all the other tables around her were served by wait staff.

"After waiting more than 15 minutes I went to the bar and paid cash for a round of drinks, which my friends and I carried to the table ourselves," Gray writes.

She said the only time a waitperson approached her table was to deliver hookahs she had ordered at the bar.

Gray said around 12:30 a.m. a waitress dropped off a bill at their table - and she was shocked to see the group referred to by a derogatory, anti-LGBT slur, printed in capital letters across the top of the bill.

"As a transgender woman, I was extremely hurt, embarassed and upset," Gray writes in her complaint. "I felt that the slur was meant as a slap in the face because of my gender identity and expression, my perceived sexual orientation, my personal appearance, and my association with my friends who are or may have been perceived as being lesbian or gay."

Gray then said one of her friends brought the slur to the manager's attention, who claimed the waitress had printed "the wrong bill," and then walked away and brought back a new receipt that did not have the slur printed at the top.

Gray concluded her complaint by stating that she believes she was "denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of Bistro 18" based on her appearance, gender identity and association with friends who are or may be perceived as homosexual.

Gray and Lambda Legal say her treatment is in violation of D.C. code. Lambda Legal filed the official complaint on Gray's behalf with D.C.'s Office of Human Rights (OHR).

The Washington Post spoke with Elliott Imse with the OHR, who would not confirm or deny receipt of the complaint, per policy. Bistro 18 did not return the Post's calls for comment.

Imse said in such a situation, though, a similar complaint would be investigated starting with an interview with the complainer, and then a mandatory mediated meeting between the complainer and the business establishment.

Possible outcomes of the mediated meeting may include a resolution that involves sensitivity training for the staff.

If a voluntary resolution is not arrived at, the OHR may investigate the complaint - which could take up to six months - after which a judge may hear the case, and may decide to order the business to pay damages to the complainer.

However, a complaint such as this would not involve a fine paid to the city, Imse told the Post.