In Miami Beach, Anti-Gay Discrimination Alleged and Investigated
A gay family was turned away by a condominium association upon attempting to rent a unit in a Miami Beach building. The reason? "[The building’s r]esidents are conservative."
In other words, because they were two gay men looking to rent a home they could share.
The story was carried on Oct. 16 by the Miami New Times which described 48-year-old would-be buyer Steven Bloomfield as "a dream tenant," citing Bloomfield’s impeccable credit and high income.
When Bloomfield’s real estate agent looked into why Bloomfield and his partner, Jose Gonzalez, were rejected as renters, the answer was, "It’s two men," the New Times story said.
"Residents are conservative," the agent was told.
The article quoted Bloomfield as saying, "My face got hot with humiliation and rage."
Added Bloomfield, "I felt like a piece of shit."
The article said that the Miami-Dade Equal Opportunity Board (also known as the EOB) investigated, and found that Bloomfield and Gonzalez had been discriminated against because of their sexuality.
That’s only one case out of 29 reported in 2007, the article said, and though the number of reports of discrimination have skyrocketed, the EOB has seen its budget slashed to half its previous level--from $600,000 to $300,000, even though Marcos Regalado, the EOB’s director, says that the board is "up to our ears in cases."
The case load used to be much higher, the article said, recounting that in 1998, when such complaints started to be noted officially by the county, reports regarding anti-gay discriminatory experiences everywhere from the workplace to the housing market to retail outlets poured in.
The EOB doesn’t investigate only anti-gay discrimination cases: the board looks into nearly 400 reports annually, relating to all sorts of people of minority status. In all, the incidents of reported GLBT discrimination the board has looked in to total about 160, the article said, including incidents of gays and lesbians being refused service at retail establishments, fired or harassed at their places of employment by co-workers or employers, or refused entry into public meetings.
Not all cases are as overt as the one in which Bloomfield and Gonzalez were refused housing; the New Times quoted one investigator with the EOB, Bennie Barnes, as saying that oftentimes, the "manner and method" of anti-gay discrimination "are more subtle."
This case, however, was compared by Barnes with "finding a four-leaf clover."
Signs of discriminatory attitudes were evident early on, the article indicated; in Jan. of 2006, when Bloomfield was first being shown a unit, he said, he found himself being quizzed by one of the building’s residents about whether he would be sharing his living space.
Said Bloomberg, "She asked me in a very nosy way."
Added Bloomberg, "She made me uncomfortable."
Bloomberg answered that he would share the apartment with "a friend," the article said.
Bloomberg supplied all the necessary items, including an application and a sum of $7,500, to cover the deposit and the first five months of rent. But then Bloomberg and Gonzalez were asked for photos of themselves by members of the building’s board; the men were also subjected to a number of background checks for criminal records and credit scores, and Gonzalez was required to provide proof that he was not an illegal alien.
With spotless records, the men were initially accepted as renters in mid-February, but a week later their approval was suddenly rescinded, the article indicated.
The couple’s real estate agent was told by the same secretary who murmured an insinuation that the conservative residents of the building did not approve of two gay men living together also said that the condo association had been looking for reasons to reject the mens’ application, and then, despite finding no reason, did reject them.
Over two and a half years later, the article said, Bloomberg has yet to get back the $3,000 he put down as a deposit.
The lawyers for each side defended their clients, with Bloomberg’s attorney, Matthew Dietz, calling the way the couple was treated "a slap in the face."
Continued Dietz, "The shocking part is that, of all places, it’s Miami Beach."
With Dietz representing them, the men intend to sue.
The board’s lawyer, Steven Davis, dismissed allegations of anti-gay discrimination, saying that the condo association "don’t feel they have discriminated.
"They have all types of people in there," Davis added.
"To me, this is not a big deal."
The article said that although the EOB does not possess any punitive authority, its findings are taken seriously in court cases; also, because there is a reluctance on the part of those who are found to have acted in a discriminatory manner to have complaints become public knowledge, they are often willing to resort to mediation rather than go to court over such complaints.