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Author Topic: Oregon bar owner fined $400,000 for discriminating against transgender customers  (Read 6946 times)

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Offline SkynetTopic starter

Here's the story.

A Portland bar owner violated the city's anti-discrimination laws when he banned a group of transgender customers (who regularly came to the bar for a year) from the establishment, claiming that it affected his business.

This is the first high-profile case I've heard of in the United States.  Hopefully this is a sign of  building progress, after legal victories in California and Colorado for transgender students.

Offline Aiden

I personally think it is bullshit. If it is his business, he has the right to serve those who wishes and deny service to others.

DO I agree with discrimination? No, but his business, let him run it as he wishes.

Offline Kythia

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I'm not sure I like this.  If they'd have walked in the first time and he'd told them to get out then fine.  But coming for over a year and then the reason given that they were harming the business?  Assuming that was true - I have no idea - then, yeah, I'm not sure I like this. 

Aiden posted while I was typing but yeah, what he said.

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Wasn't that debate settled back in the 60s? If you open to the general public, you open to the general public. Would it have been okay if he'd tossed out a bunch of long-term clients because they were black?

Offline Kythia

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No, but it would be OK if he'd thrown out a bunch of long term black customers because they were harming sales.  He didn't throw them out because they were transgender, he threw them out because they were harming his business. 

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No, but it would be OK if he'd thrown out a bunch of long term black customers because they were harming sales.  He didn't throw them out because they were transgender, he threw them out because they were harming his business.
How exactly were they harming his business? By patronizing it on a regular basis? No, they were "harming his business" by being trans. So yes, he threw them out for being trans.

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They may have been regular customers but if their patronage was causing others to leave or not return the loss of revenue is a detriment to the business.

A restaurant in a town nearby catered to the non-binary crowd but when a popular chef from a restaurant that burned was hired fans of his started eating there.  They didn't care about the type of place it was but the regular customers and management felt uncomfortable and worried the place would change.  The straight couples were asked to find another place to eat and not return.

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How exactly were they harming his business? By patronizing it on a regular basis? No, they were "harming his business" by being trans. So yes, he threw them out for being trans.

I see your point but I think its largely semantic. I'm trying to think of an analogy but drawing a blank a little.  They weren't harming his business by being trans, they were harming his business by making other customers not want to come.    My point is that if - again I have no idea whether its true or not, but assuming it is - if a group of clients are harming a business then the business should have the right to refuse them service.   At least that's my first thought.  Still not 100% sure what I think about this but my gut instinct is to be on his side.

Half a million dollars is presumably enough to shut him down.  Look at it from his point of view.  He had a group of customers that were harming his business, that he never asked for.  He gave it a while - a year - but the situation didn't improve.  He asked them to leave. 

Offline Kythia

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OK.  Imagine a group of bikers - leather jackets, love and hate tattoos on knuckles, stereotypically scary - started drinking there.  They're not causing trouble but the place is getting a reputation as a biker bar and these people are driving away other custom.  Would you think he had the right to ask them to stop coming?  I get the parallel isn't perfect but, yeah, do you think he'd have that right?

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They may have been regular customers but if their patronage was causing others to leave or not return the loss of revenue is a detriment to the business.

A restaurant in a town nearby catered to the non-binary crowd but when a popular chef from a restaurant that burned was hired fans of his started eating there.  They didn't care about the type of place it was but the regular customers and management felt uncomfortable and worried the place would change.  The straight couples were asked to find another place to eat and not return.

I'd say the patron (the owner) of a shop, a bar or a restaurant - or a night spot - has the right to say they don't want a certain kind of people in as customers. A local food and everyday store around here banned gypsy women, as long as they were dressed in traditional roma/gypsy way. It was a fairly small shop, often manned just by one to three people, no surveillance camera except near the counter, and the manager had had trouble for some time with groups of gypsy women coming in, spreading around the shop and (he alleged) lifting stuff into their wide, multilayered skirts. Often one or two of the ladies would engage the counter clerk or assistant in talk about something as a foil and to prevent them from going after those who did the actual lifting. After a few minutes the whole band disappeared out again without buying a thing. According to the manager, this had happened regularly for a couple of months.

The manager stated it was plain that stuff had been stolen and that his staff had actually seen several very suspicious incidents but had been unable to stop the women because it was crowded  - as a shop clerk you really can't run after everyone you see who you think is behaving suspiciously, not if it happens at a fast rate and it's a gang operation. That was on the manager's word, of course, but I would be prepared to believe him, it wouldn't have been an easy decision.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:49:30 PM by gaggedLouise »

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@gaggedLouise ~ Stores have had a long tradition of limiting the number of school kids allowed in a store at any one time for that reason and because of normal hijinks that damage the store and can cause injury.  They also post signs that between certain hours no more than a certain number of patrons are allowed inside.  The loss of merchandise and insurance claims as well as lawsuits can be crippling.

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OK.  Imagine a group of bikers - leather jackets, love and hate tattoos on knuckles, stereotypically scary - started drinking there.  They're not causing trouble but the place is getting a reputation as a biker bar and these people are driving away other custom.  Would you think he had the right to ask them to stop coming?  I get the parallel isn't perfect but, yeah, do you think he'd have that right?
Yes, because "biker" is not an inherent trait. Try this: Would it have been okay for him to reject Muslims or black people (or - gasp! - black Muslims) because some EDL-types said they wouldn't go there?

If so, are any and all anti-discrimination laws bad? Because this renders them essentially unenforceable.

I'd say the patron of a shop, a bar or a restaurant - or a night spot - has the right to say they don't want a certain kind of people in as customers. A local food and everyday store around here banned gypsy women, as long as they were dressed in traditional roma/gypsy way. It was a fairly small shop, often manned just by one to three people, no surveillance camera except near the counter, and the manager had had trouble for some time with groups of gypsy women coming in, spreading around the shop and (he alleged) lifting stuff into their wide, multilayered skirts. Often one or two of the ladies would engage the counter clerk or assistant in talk about something as a foil and to prevent them from going after those who did the actual lifting. After a few minutes the whole band disappeared out again without buying a thing. According to the manager, this had happened regularly for a couple of months.

The manager stated it was plain that stuff had been stolen and that his staff had actually seen several very suspicious incidents but had been unable to stop the women because it was crowded  - as a shop clerk you really can't run after everyone you see who you think is behaving suspiciously, not if it happens at a fast rate and it's a gang operation. That was on the manager's word, of course, but I would be prepared to believe him, it wouldn't have been an easy decision.
Sorry, but this is just racist. The obvious and correct solution there is to ban wide, multilayered skirts, and say nothing about the people in them.

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Yes, because "biker" is not an inherent trait. Try this: Would it have been okay for him to reject Muslims or black people (or - gasp! - black Muslims) because some EDL-types said they wouldn't go there?

Yes.  Or rather "almost".  He didn't ban them because people said they wouldn't drink there, he banned them because people weren't drinking there.  Adjusting your question to that phrasing, yes.  It's his bar, why should he be run to the ground and forced out of business?  If he was the only bar in Oregon than it would be different but, lacking any knowledge whatsoever, I'm gonna say he isn't.

Quote
If so, are any and all anti-discrimination laws bad? Because this renders them essentially unenforceable.

But think about the message this has sent to other Oregon bar owners.  Is it "you should let this group drink at your bar" or is it "this group will drink at your bar, drive all your customers away then force you to close if you object - find some excuse to not let them through the door."  Is that the goal of anti-discrimination laws?  I suspect not.

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@Ephiral ~ If an owner has a chance to think about it might go the politically correct way and if it's pointed out in a non-confrontational way without name calling they might be more inclined to respond favorably.  Of course, there will probably be the radical out there who will still call it racist because only gypsies are seen wearing that type of clothing.

But think about the message this has sent to other Oregon bar owners.  Is it "you should let this group drink at your bar" or is it "this group will drink at your bar, drive all your customers away then force you to close if you object - find some excuse to not let them through the door."  Is that the goal of anti-discrimination laws?  I suspect not.

As people who have felt discriminated against gain more freedoms and privileges heretofore denied them they have to remember their responsibility to co-exist in the world around them rather than be the group now forcing cultures and ideologies on others.

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Sorry, but this is just racist. The obvious and correct solution there is to ban wide, multilayered skirts, and say nothing about the people in them.

No, it's not. He clearly said gypsies were welcome if they didn't wear traditional gypsy garb and didn't come in a big group, just one or two at a time. But the only people who had been troubling his business in this way were gypsies, because nobody else around here has that kind of really wide, multi-layered skirts, three or four quite separate layers - and skirts that actually give you the space to hide a good deal of objects under them; try shoplifting that way with a pencil skirt?  ;)

And a ban against "suspicious multi-layered skirts" wouldn't have been possible to enforce, it would have landed the personnel in endless discussions with customers. If a woman in a billowing, European-style evening dress comes in to buy a newspaper and a packet of cigarettes, obviously shoplifting isn't going to be an issue. They had to have something that was clearcut and actually matched the kind of people that had been causing the trouble.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:02:24 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Ephiral

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But think about the message this has sent to other Oregon bar owners.  Is it "you should let this group drink at your bar" or is it "this group will drink at your bar, drive all your customers away then force you to close if you object - find some excuse to not let them through the door."  Is that the goal of anti-discrimination laws?  I suspect not.
...except the part where the thing that killed his business - it had gotten by for a year with these customers, remember - was refusing service to a legally-protected minority. So the message is "Refusing service to minorities on the basis of their minority status will be more painful to you than being a decent human being."

@Ephiral ~ If an owner has a chance to think about it might go the politically correct way and if it's pointed out in a non-confrontational way without name calling they might be more inclined to respond favorably.  Of course, there will probably be the radical out there who will still call it racist because only gypsies are seen wearing that type of clothing.

As people who have felt discriminated against gain more freedoms and privileges heretofore denied them they have to remember their responsibility to co-exist in the world around them rather than be the group now forcing cultures and ideologies on others.
Um. Could you please rephrase this, particularly the last part? It comes off as extremely condescending. First, it's not "felt discriminated against", it's "been discriminated against". Trans people aren't imagining the high rate of violence they experience, the lack of support from police in many jurisdictions, housing and employment discrimination, or service discrimination. Second, my body is not an ideology.

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     I have to say the attempts to draw comparisons between trans as such, and groups that are often seen as physically or directly, materially threatening -- bikers and gypsies, or hordes of minors -- well, that's pathetically reaching.  Perhaps here and there you get "flaming" trans who may speak a little more vocally than their neighbors would like, but I don't believe the trans community has any comparable reputation for damaging places they visit by violence, mob misbehavior (at least no more than others) or theft.

     From the reports I've seen so far, the owner left a phone message that complained specifically that the bar would be viewed as a "tranny" (potentially derogatory) or gay bar.  Now, it's not okay to push people out of an establishment for being trans (or gay for that matter, not that it's at issue) any better than one could for being Black.  It seems to me that the owner calculated that he could argue this was all about sexual orientation (as in, who one wants to take to bed after drinking) just because "well it's a bar," but he ended up in a bind because 1) there is nothing about being trans that makes demands on other people's orientation and 2) even then bars do not clearly have only that one function -- people can go to eat and socialize too.

     If he really wanted to make it a "straight bar," (so he would say, but this really means some vague gender normative non-Other bar, since it's not just orientation at stake) then maybe he should research what sorts of décor trans like (or not)...  If he can pin it down to anything.  Trans seem pretty varied and flexible to me, sometimes  ;)

     Now conversely...  If the owner of any given establishment is to be considered "master of the house" to an extent they can pick and choose every detail of their clientele any day they like, then well they can throw out anyone who wears a blue shirt on Tuesday without notice (after accepting royal blue for every Tuesday the past year, in this case).  How would we get along if the local drug store in a one stoplight town operated like that?  That's a lotta miles you gotta go for some Tylenol if you're not lucky...
   
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:42:55 PM by kylie »

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...except the part where the thing that killed his business - it had gotten by for a year with these customers, remember - was refusing service to a legally-protected minority. So the message is "Refusing service to minorities on the basis of their minority status will be more painful to you than being a decent human being."

Its the half a million dollars fine I was referring to in killing his business. 

Sure it had got through a year, I'm not sure how that's relevant.  Was it losing money?  Was the owner shoring it up with his savings?  Businesses can take more than a year to be killed, quote easily - my boyfriend's business has been struggling for two and is shored up by loans - and the fact that they had been going there a year, to me, shows that he wasn't reacting out of bigotry or homophobia.  As I say, if he'd banned them the second they walked through the door it would be different.  But it takes some time to even realise that a group of clients are hurting sales. 

EDIT:  Missed the second half of your post, somehow, despite having quoted it.  Not sure how that happened.  Anyway -
His business is in financial trouble, presumably, from this fine.  Its also been less profitable than it could be for a year.  So he's taken a financial hit by them being there, one which wouldn't have happened if they weren't.  It seems common sense for other bar owners to learn from that.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:12:04 PM by Kythia »

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A person does not have to be twirling moustaches and saying "How can I discriminate against X today?" to take a bigoted action. I specifically try to avoid referring to people as bigoted for exactly this reason - most bigotry doesn't come from malice so much as from unthinking adherence to bigoted standards - which is exactly what took place here. Was this guy what most people would call "a bigot"? Almost certainly not. Was this act bigotry? Absolutely.

As to the rest: Similarly, it seems like common sense for bar owners in certain parts of the country to "learn" to refuse service to black people. Or to women. Or to straight white men, in some cases. Somehow, I don't think that this would be tolerated, let alone get the level of defense I'm seeing here.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:13:48 PM by Ephiral »

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Um. Could you please rephrase this, particularly the last part? It comes off as extremely condescending. First, it's not "felt discriminated against", it's "been discriminated against". Trans people aren't imagining the high rate of violence they experience, the lack of support from police in many jurisdictions, housing and employment discrimination, or service discrimination. Second, my body is not an ideology.

My issue is that as groups gain freedom of expression and other privileges some seem to think the world owes them something beyond the basic respect and freedoms we all deserve. 

If using been makes you feel better feel free to do so.  I really don't care what your body is as I wasn't talking about it or that of anyone else.

Since, as usual, you seem to easily take offense where none is meant I'll leave you to your usuall methodology.  Good day all.

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My issue is that as groups gain freedom of expression and other privileges some seem to think the world owes them something beyond the basic respect and freedoms we all deserve. 

If using been makes you feel better feel free to do so.  I really don't care what your body is as I wasn't talking about it or that of anyone else.

Since, as usual, you seem to easily take offense where none is meant I'll leave you to your usuall methodology.  Good day all.
Intent is not magical. Equating "being trans in public" with "pushing an ideology" is offensive, regardless of what you meant. I'm sorry that it bothers you to be called on this, but that does not change the facts. This is why I rather politely suggested that you think about what you were saying, and rephrase it in a way that didn't have those problems.

Offline Blythe

The bar owner was in clear violation of the 2007 Oregon Equality Act.

Refusing service to someone because they believe them being trans* is harming one's business is still refusing them service based on their trans* status, which is clearly discrimination based on gender orientation.

So yup, I support the T-girls and their right to sue. They were within their legal rights, and kudos to them for protecting themselves against discrimination.

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     I have to say the attempts to draw comparisons between trans as such, and groups that are often seen as physically or directly, materially threatening -- bikers and gypsies, or hordes of minors -- well, that's pathetically reaching.  Perhaps here and there you get "flaming" trans who may speak a little more vocally than their neighbors would like, but I don't believe the trans community has any comparable reputation for damaging places they visit by violence, mob misbehavior (at least no more than others) or theft.

     From the reports I've seen so far, the owner left a phone message that complained specifically that the bar would be viewed as a "tranny" (potentially derogatory) or gay bar. 

 For clarity: my pitch in this thread isn't about that specific Oregon bar.  There will be several different stories and takes on what went on from the people involved. I am only after the issue: does a manager have the right to exclude some kinds of people if he really thinks they are threatening or damaging his business, his personnel or his customers? Yes, I think they have that right - just because a bar or a shop exists and is open it doesn't mean they are obliged to let absolutely everyone in* as long as there is place. If some group really hurts business or makes a nuisance or a risk to other customers, or to the staff, the owners have a right to say that kind of customer isn't wanted, and to enforce this within reasonable limits. Especially if it's a certain behaviour that's troubling and not just these people being e.g. gay, latino, teenagers, people with dogs etc.

 
Quote
Now conversely...  If the owner of any given establishment is to be considered "master of the house" to an extent they can pick and choose every detail of their clientele any day they like, then well they can throw out anyone who wears a blue shirt on Tuesday without notice (after accepting royal blue for every Tuesday the past year, in this case).  How would we get along if the local drug store in a one stoplight town operated like that?  That's a lotta miles you gotta go for some Tylenol if you're not lucky...
   

If a manager or patron does that kind of thing in a way that just selects people out of the blue, for inane or racist reasons, that is going to hurt their business, and it could become a long-term stain. What "that manager" did can become a local talking point that stays around for many years after the actual feud ended. People have very long memories when it comes to having been humiliated or treated badly in a shop or a bar, or even reading about somebody who was humiliated or turned away in a local shop. Some will boycott such a place for many years and tell their friends to do it too. If it's a local shop or bar the managers won't take that kind of risk lightly.


*and as long as those people seem to have the required age to drink beer in the bar, buy some of what the shop has for sale or whatever.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:31:41 PM by gaggedLouise »

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A person does not have to be twirling moustaches and saying "How can I discriminate against X today?" to take a bigoted action. I specifically try to avoid referring to people as bigoted for exactly this reason - most bigotry doesn't come from malice so much as from unthinking adherence to bigoted standards - which is exactly what took place here. Was this guy what most people would call "a bigot"? Almost certainly not. Was this act bigotry? Absolutely.

But you still think the laws, as applied in this case, are a good idea?  That even without any mens rea he can be found guilty?  Strict liability like, I dunno, speeding?

I have a habit of asking a series of rapid fire questions that I'm aware looks aggressive.  Its not - in this case at a minimum - meant as such.  For some reason I've decided to include this caveat rather than retyping, but the point is those are meant genuinely not, I dunno, aggressively.

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Quote from: Ephiral
As to the rest: Similarly, it seems like common sense for bar owners in certain parts of the country to "learn" to refuse service to black people. Or to women. Or to straight white men, in some cases. Somehow, I don't think that this would be tolerated, let alone get the level of defense I'm seeing here.
     I don't bother to "+1" a lot of things, but I really have to second this.  It doesn't matter much to me if he just wondered if it would be okay and 'gave it a trial period,' or had a group of people who didn't like trans show up the last month or last night, or if he just woke up and said "Wow, you know those people are wacked and I should get rid of them before someone else thinks so too."   Discrimination is discrimination.  Having a bottom line income estimate or peer pressure doesn't change that (though I suppose it makes it easier to cover up and paper over, if you have enough of them). 

      I'm a little more open to arguments about how much is a reasonable penalty, but I do think that needs to consider too...  When people see de facto gender discrimination as "just business," then it may take a pretty high monetary fine to dissuade them from acting that way.