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July 12, 2011

GLAD Lawsuit Produces New Denny’s Bathroom Policy for Transgender Patrons

GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and Realty Resources Hospitality, which operates six Denny’s restaurants throughout Maine, are pleased to announce an agreement resolving a lawsuit brought by Brianna Freeman, a transgender woman who was denied access to the women’s restroom at a Denny’s in Auburn, Maine.

Realty Resources Hospitality has agreed that at all of the restaurants it operates, all transgender individuals, including Ms. Freeman, will have access to the restroom consistent with their stated gender identity.

“GLAD is pleased with the results of this case,” said GLAD Attorney Janson Wu.  “We’re happy to have had the opportunity to work with business leaders to make Maine’s business establishments open and welcoming to all potential customers.”

“We recognize and support Ms. Freeman’s gender transition over the past three and half years, said Brian Mesley, a spokesperson for Realty Resources Hospitality.  “Her transition and this lawsuit presented a new issue for us.  It has been an educational process, and we reaffirm our commitment to provide top-notch services to all our customers.  We believe the resolution of this case will work well for all of our customers and preserved the dignity and safety of all.”

The agreement brings to a conclusion Freeman v. Realty Resources Hospitality LLC, which Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed in Androscoggin Superior Court in 2009 on behalf of Ms. Freeman after she had been told by the manager of the Auburn Denny’s that she could not use the women’s restroom.  GLAD defeated a motion to dismiss by the defendants: on May 27, 2010, the Maine Superior Court issued a critical, first-of-its-kind ruling that Maine’s law protecting transgender people from discrimination includes ensuring appropriate access to bathrooms.

GLAD then argued for summary judgment in the case, seeking a final order allowing Ms. Freeman – and other transgender Mainers – fair and equal access to the appropriate restrooms.  Both parties reached agreement before the issuance of any decision regarding the summary judgment.

“The bottom line for me and other transgender patrons is that Denny’s has welcomed us to use the restroom that is consistent with how we live our lives,” said Ms. Freeman.  “That makes good sense.  Any other rule is just not workable for anyone.”

Ms. Freeman was also represented by GLAD’s Jennifer Levi and Bennett Klein, as well as attorney Jeffrey Neil Young of the Topsham, ME law firm of McTeague Higbee.

More on this case

News and Blog Coverage:

Lewiston Sun Journal

Maine Public Radio

The Advocate

Pam’s House Blend

Billerico