New York City Restaurant Sued For Cancelling LGBT Couple’s Wedding Celebration

Barrett Greene and Thomas Eng

A newlywed same-sex couple in New York City has filed a civil rights lawsuit against restaurant chain, after its general manager backed out of their contract to host their rehearsal dinner and cater their wedding reception.

The New York Daily News reported Monday that a manager at Amber Village took a $750 deposit to host Barrett Greene and Thomas Eng’s rehearsal dinner. But a week later, the restaurant’s general manager instructed him to cancel the event:

The couple contends that later that same day, a senior manager of Amber Village — a man identified only as Mr. Fong — summoned [manager Tommy] Ho.

“Fong was visibly angry and told Ho that he didn’t want any ‘gay parties’ at Amber Village,” the suit charges.

“Fong instructed Ho to ‘make an excuse’ and tell Greene that his rehearsal dinner could not take place at Amber Village and that his wedding could not be catered by them either.

“Fong also told Ho that it’s ‘very bad’ for Amber Village to book ‘gay parties’ and that big groups of ‘gay partyers’ are especially bad for feng shui.

According to the legal complaint, Fong then fired Ho and texted the couple that they would have to find other accommodations. The restaurant never refunded the deposit.

While New York’s state legislature enacted marriage equality in 2011, if these allegations of discrimination are true, they would fall under the state’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), in effect since 2003. That law prevents discrimination in both employment and in public accommodations within the state. But New York is one of a minority of states of offer such protections.

Like employment discrimination, public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is legal in most states — an often-overlooked-but-real problem for LGBT individuals and same-sex couples whose business may be turned away by bakeries, restaurants, banquet halls, and hotels. Even the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act does not contain any provisions protecting against public accommodations discrimination for LGBT Americans.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Nightmares like the one Greene and Eng are alleging show why that ban needs to also include sexual orientation and gender identity.