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Chicago Lawyers' Committee working on anti-gay housing case
by Melissa Wasserman
2014-12-03

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When Mr. Jackson [first name withheld for privacy] was looking to move in August 2010, he chose an apartment that suited his needs. The landlord, V. Moore, resided next door, which convinced Jackson he would live peacefully.

But Jackson ultimately had to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ( IDHR ), and he is waiting a final determination of compensation he will receive.

"I wanted a nice, warm, safe place," Jackson said.

Living on a housing subsidy, Jackson would be close to where he was going to school and he felt a sense of safety living next to the landlord. Jackson thought Moore was an older retired man who worked with the law in some way. Jackson's perception of Moore changed as he allegedly treated him in a manner considered to be mean.

"Mr. Moore would accuse me of certain things—minor stuff [such as leaving trash out]," said Jackson. "Small tedious things, so my responses were, 'Okay, Mr. Moore, I'll take care of it.' It was always 'yes' to keep him from harassing me. Even if it wasn't me I would just say, 'Yes, I did it.' I would take the high road with him."

In February 2012, Jackson told Moore he was going to terminate his lease due to the mistreatment and verbal abuse.

"Mr. Moore started to harass me somewhat, to the point that I looked up one day and he was taking me to eviction court, which I couldn't understand why because I was moving out of the building," Jackson said.

As a result, Moore used the special access he had to the basement to allegedly turn off Jackson's electricity, gas and water. Jackson said he was continually inconvenienced and would have to stay at a family member or friend's house just to bathe and get to work on time.

"There were times I had to call the police because of that," said Jackson. "Mr. Moore would never respond or come to the door when they came there. There were times he would know they were there and turn the lights on right before they came in to check my apartment. It was like I was lying or something to the police because they walked in the door and the water was back on and then the lights would come back on as soon as they came in."

Jackson felt he needed to take precautions when he left his apartment to confirm Moore was entering without permission each day.

"I was coming home and parking a couple of blocks away so I could sneak in and just have some peace," Jackson said. "If he knew I wasn't home, I would have a little peace. I was doing things like that."

Moore allegedly continued exhibiting multiple forms of harassment such as allegedly posting signs in the front entrance of the building up to Jackson's apartment stating, "Nothing's so sad, as a rat assed fagg, who don't pay for the roof over his ghetto black ass," "The no paying deadbeat fagg will be thrown out on his roof over his ghetto black ass" among other offensive lines.

Jackson is not open with his sexuality and said that while living there he kept to himself, so the hate Moore expressed toward him, he gathered, was based on an assumption. Being outed made Jackson afraid and distressed.

One evening in March 2012, Jackson stayed with his mother and brother. Returning after the weekend, he found his apartment door wide open. Jackson testified Moore, who had special keys to the building units, got into his apartment. The day before that incident, the two were to appear in court. Moore followed Jackson into his apartment wielding a steel bar and smashing his cell phone, so he could not call for help.

Using another neighbor's phone to call the police, Jackson could no longer live in his apartment and moved out completely in April 2012. When unpacking his possessions, he found more of them had been destroyed and he suspects it was Moore.

"The look in his face had so much hate and he was talking to me, he was just a really hateful person that evening," said Jackson. "I felt fearful for my life."

Jackson took his case to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. He initially filed a discrimination charge in April 2012. Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Director of Fair Housing and Hate Crime Projects Betsy Shuman-Moore and attorney Shubra Ohri, previously with the Chicago Lawyers' Committee, represented Jackson.

"It came from the police not responding first of all," Jackson said as to why he decided to take legal action on the matter. "I knew it had to be documented somewhere. I couldn't get the police to document it, so I knew about hate crimes and the Department of Human Rights, so I took it to them."

Shuman-Moore, asked about the frequency of anti-gay housing discrimination, said it is pretty unusual, in part because people don't file complaints. "I do want to urge people if they feel they've been discriminated against to make complaints and seek legal redress because if they don't, it can continue and people don't know about what's truly going on," she said.

In September 2012, a default order was entered against Moore for failure to respond to Jackson's complaint. The public hearing on the damages was held on March 2013 where both parties were present. IDHR Administrative Law Judge Gertrude L. McCarthy has issued a recommended liability determination. Currently, the Commission is reviewing the recommended liability determination and will issue a final decision. The exact date is undetermined.

Listed in the conclusions of law, Jackson, the complainant, is an aggrieved party as defined in the Illinois Human Rights Act ( IHRA ). Moore, the respondent, is liable for violations of the IHRA that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The judge has recommended Moore pay a sum of $30,000 as compensation for emotional damages as a result of his actions, a cease and desist from any further violation of the Act, and pay Jackson's attorney's fees and costs incurred in this matter, in addition to other penalties.

"I think that the judge appropriately saw it as being a very serious case of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and she awarded the maximum in damages and penalties and relief that were available to reflect that," said Shuman-Moore.

See www.clccrul.org .


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