OCEAN GROVE, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--QSpot LGBT Community Center filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Jersey Shore Arts Center (JSAC) in Superior Court of New Jersey today. The suit alleges that Herb Herbst, President of the JSAC, acted out of bias towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community when he chose not to renew QSpot's lease expiring on December 31, 2016. According to the lawsuit, Herbst's actions are a violation of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD), which protects tenants against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
QSpot is asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent QSpot from being removed from the premises pending further proceedings on its discrimination claim. The suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation, as provided by the LAD. QSpot has asked that the court hear the matter on an expedited basis. QSpot is represented by Michael Long and Steven Rosato of the national law firm Lowenstein Sandler, LLP, with support from the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest.
“Over the past six months, QSpot has taken every reasonable step to encourage the Jersey Shore Arts Center to reconsider their decision not to renew our lease,” said John Mikytuck, QSpot Executive Director. “At each point along the way, Herb Herbst and JSAC's leadership have absolutely refused to seriously discuss it. With no other options, and little more than a month before eviction, QSpot has been forced to file a lawsuit to protect our home and defend our right to be in it.”
In May, Herbst informed QSpot that their lease at the JSAC would not be renewed stating that “QSpot doesn't provide arts and education programming.” According to the lawsuit, Herbst's claim is merely a cover to conceal the real motivation for his decision, bias towards the LGBT community. Moreover, QSpot does, in fact, provide extensive arts and education programming including QFest, NJ's only LGBT film festival which received a 2016 Monmouth Arts Council grant, live performances, open mic nights, movie nights, art exhibitions, film club, book club, marching band and other arts programming. QSpot is also an official field placement site for Monmouth University students completing year long academic internships for graduate and undergraduate degrees.
“The fact that Herb Herbst would prefer to fight a legal battle, rather than keep a great tenant that has paid rent every month, taken great care of and improved their unit, and provided vital services and arts and education programming to the local community, makes it pretty clear that LGBT bias is driving the JSAC's decision,” said Mikytuck,“it makes no sense without it.”
QSpot has asked the court to consider several other factors when evaluating the matter. First, JSAC never required QSpot provide arts programming as a condition of tenancy over almost four years in the building. Second, other tenants at the JSAC whose primary businesses are not arts focused are not being evicted due to a lack of arts programming. And finally, that JSAC selectively enforced lease provisions and local regulations when demanding that QSpot remove a rainbow flag, a well-known symbol of the LGBT community, hanging at their entrance for less than one week (as part of a memorial to the Orlando Pulse nightclub victims), while allowing other, more generic signs, to remain hanging on the building for extended periods of time without issue.
“As we have said all along, QSpot will use every available resource to protect our home and defend our right to be in it,” said Mikytuck. “It will be a terrible injustice to QSpot, the LGBT community and our allies if the JSAC is allowed to evict us on New Year’s Eve.”
“We are grateful that Michael Long and Steve Rosatto from Lowenstein Sandler, one of the most well-respected and experienced law firms in the country, are representing us,” said Mikytuck.
“Lowenstein Sandler is proud to stand with QSpot as it defends itself and the LGBT community it serves from unlawful discrimination,” added Michael Long, lead lawyer on the team.
See QSpot website for full version of lawsuit.
Founded in 2005, QSpot LGBT Community Center fosters the health, well-being and pride of NJ’s LGBT community by providing resources, referrals, education, and outreach. QSpot is also home to the QFEST New Jersey LGBT Film and Digital Media Festival, NJ’s only LGBT film festival, which strives to support and promote LGBT film & digital media, the individuals who create it, and the people and stories they highlight. Additional QSpot arts programming includes the QSpot Marching Band, film club and Creative Expressions Group. QSpot works tirelessly to fulfill its mission while operating a safe and welcoming 2000 sq. ft. community center in Ocean Grove, NJ.
QSpot is the only LGBT community center serving the diverse cities of Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Red Bank, Long Branch, Toms River, Princeton, Trenton and others while operating as a 501(c) tax exempt nonprofit organization.
QSpot provides vital services to this under-served community including education, advocacy and support for LGBT youth, LGBT seniors, parents and families of LGBT, individual and group mental health counseling, internships, HIV support groups, transgender support group, 12-step recovery groups, job resource center, book club, women’s discussion group and more. QSpot is also a meeting place for other LGBT organizations and individuals looking for a welcoming place to hold important professional and personal events.
ABOUT LOWENSTEIN SANDLER AND THE LOWENSTEIN CENTER FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Lowenstein Sandler is a national law firm with more than 300 lawyers working from six offices in New York, Palo Alto, Roseland, Utah, and Washington D.C. The firm represents clients in virtually every sector of the global economy, with particular strength in the areas of technology, life sciences, and the financial management and fund formation industry sectors that fuel economic growth.
In 2009, Lowenstein expanded its historic commitment to pro bono work by creating the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest. The Center maximizes the impact of the firm’s pro bono work by focusing pro bono efforts and deepening the firm’s partnerships with leading nonprofit and community organizations. Led by a career public interest lawyer, Center staff work to foster and support pro bono efforts throughout the firm.