Monday, December 7, 2009
Help Me Howard: Lesbians Dancing
Two women want to learn to dance, that's nice, but they can not learn to dance together, especially if they are lesbians. That's what the girls were told, so does that mean you can stop lesbians from coming into your business? Lets bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Melissa and Aladene know each other very well.
Melissa Parrella: "We've been together three years this month. We communicate a lot."
They have been together so long they can finish each others sentences.
Melissa Parrella: "We try to work things out."
Aladene Gutierrez: "We try to."
Melissa Parrella: "If not, we just go to bed."
Aladene Gutierrez: "We just go to bed. We just go to bed and don't talk."
Like most couples, they want to do new things together. The latest idea, learn to do the salsa.
Melissa Parrella: "I wanted to learn with my partner because I want to go clubbing and I want to enjoy being able to dance and being able to look good dancing."
Melissa found a dance studio on the internet and went to check it out.
Melissa Parrella: "It was really open and inviting, I felt really comfortable. I learned a couple of steps and at the end of the first session I made the decision it would be a good idea for the both of us to go."
Then Melissa told the instructor next time she came she would bring Aladene.
Melissa Parrella: "I explained the situation, I'm a lesbian and I'm in a relationship with my partner, my girlfriend."
But, that's when she was told no you won't dance here with another girl.
Melissa Parrella: Melissa Parrella: "I was baffled and I was shocked."
The instructor said the two girls could dance with guys, but they could not dance with each other.
Melissa Parrella: "I don't know if it was based on gender or if it was sexual orientation. Maybe if I didn't tell him that we were lesbians and it was just another female that wanted to learn the lead role because we're all friends and we all want to go out and have fun together."
Melissa then had to go home and tell Aladene that if they wanted to learn the salsa, they would have to learn it themselves.
Aladene Gutierrez: "I was upset, she was really upset. I was disappointed because I felt like society, I thought we were a little more advanced than that, than to go back to the old days."
Upset and confused and trying to find out what's wrong with two women dancing in a studio together.
Aladene Gutierrez: "Something just like dancing. It's not like I'm going to invade his home and dance with her in my living room and do obscene things, it's not like that."
Well Howard, can a dance studio block two women from learning to dance together because they are lesbians.
Howard Finkelstein: "In most places in the United States they can, but not in Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties. Those three counties have a gay rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation. So, if the girls want to dance together the business has to allow it."
When we contacted the dance studio the owner told us that he teaches the salsa class in a group. That he was not discriminating against lesbians, but that during the dance couples change partners and some women might not be comfortable dancing with another woman. He said he then risked losing them as a customer. He did say he would be happy to teach the girls in a private lesson, but Howard says that is not enough.
Howard Finkelstein: "Claiming that your customers might be uncomfortable dancing with a lesbian is the same argument that some white people made against allowing blacks into restaurants or onto school buses. That was illegal then, this is illegal in South Florida now.
Melissa and Aladene have now found another studio, Salsa Kings that will allow them to dance together. A studio a little more open minded than their first experience.
Aladene Gutierrez: "I hope he understands he did hurt us, you know, we don't deserve to be treated like that, and if anything comes out of this I hope he realizes that."
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination you can file a complaint with Dade or Broward's human rights group.
For example, in this case, they can fine the business up to $10,000 if they don't allow the girls to dance. However, the girls don't want to dance with a studio that doesn't want them around.
Danced into a dilemma that's left you out of rhythm, don't miss a beat. Contact us. We may have two left feet, but we can shuffle through a lawbook.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you may file a complaint.
Broward County Civil Rights Division
Miami Dade Commission on Human Rights
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com