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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Lesbians: Landlord Abused Us

Two women were driven from their Bushwick home by their landlord and his family, all because they are lesbians, according to a lawsuit to be filed today in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Jessica Marrero, 23, and (Make the Road by Walking member) Betsy Ortiz, 42, said they were assaulted and Marrero was threatened with rape—allegations that their landlords vigorously denied.

The trouble began last summer, shortly after Marrero and Ortiz moved into an apartment at 61 Harman St. and their landlord, Juan Vasquez, saw them holding hands, the couple said.

Afterward, Vasquez and his family began insulting them as "dirty lesbians," which "escalated to intimidation," threats and violence—even against the couples 3-year-old daughter—according to the lawsuit.

"We’re just normal. We’re just like everybody else, trying to make a living and a family and a future," Marrero said. "We’re not harming anybody."

 The alleged treatment added up to a "textbook case" of "heinous discrimination" and a violation of city and state civil rights laws, the complaint also noted.

The case has also caught the attention of Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), the first openly gay City Council Speaker, who is expected to attend a rally today (organized by Make the Road by Walking) to support the couple.

Some of the worst attacks, according to the suit, were perpetrated by the landlord’s son, Javier Vasquez. On the day before Valentine’s Day, he allegedly it Ortiz with a large garbage can.

"I had the most horrible Valentine’s Day. I was in pain, trying to buy chocolate and roses for Jessica," Ortiz said.

Late at night this spring, the younger Vasquez and seven or eight of his friends allegedly surrounded the couple and allegedly threatened to rape Marrero in order "to turn you straight," according to the lawsuit.

Javier Vasquez defended his family and himself.

"Everything they’re saying is not true," he said. "They’re just playing games."

Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer at the noted law firm Paul, Weiss, which took the couple’s case pro bono, said she thinks discrimination against gay families happens "all the time" but that victims don’t often come forward.