QSpot Files Additional Retaliation Claim Against Jersey Shore Arts Center
March 21, 2017 – Ocean Grove, NJ – QSpot LGBT Community Center filed an additional retaliation claim in its pending discrimination lawsuit against the Jersey Shore Arts Center in New Jersey Superior Court today. According to the filing, JSAC is threatening retaliation if QSpot holds its 2nd Annual QFest NJ LGBT Film Festival, NJ’s only LGBT film festival, April 7, 8 & 9, in their facility. Threatening, intimidating or interfering with QSpot’s ability to use their rental unit while a discrimination lawsuit is on-going is a violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and a breach of an agreement reached by both parties in December.
In November, QSpot filed a discrimination lawsuit against the JSAC claiming 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. Herbst claimed that QSpot wasn’t qualified to be a tenant of the JSAC because the agency didn’t provide arts programs, despite QSpot’s extensive arts programming, including QFest. Minutes before the first hearing of the case in December, JSAC asked for a temporary adjournment to file additional court documents. QSpot agreed to the request under the condition that JSAC do nothing to harm the agency before the next court hearing. The agreement was signed by NJ Superior Court Judge Jamie S. Perri, who is overseeing the case.
Since then, however, JSAC has retaliated against QSpot in several ways. In January, JSAC filed a frivolous lawsuit falsely accusing QSpot of lease violations and demanding a 52% increase in rent. And in February, Herbst sent a letter threatening QSpot with more lease violations if the 2nd Annual QFest NJ LGBT Film Festival was held at QSpot, even though QFest premiered at QSpot last year with the full knowledge and support of JSAC.
According to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), it is unlawful, “for any person to take reprisals against any person because that person has opposed any practices or acts forbidden under the…(LAD)…or to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of…any right granted or protected by this act.”
“QSpot never once received a notice of lease violation in over four years as a tenant at the JSAC,” said John Mikytuck, QSpot Executive Director. “And QFest was held in our facility last year with the full knowledge and support of the JSAC. Now, as our discrimination case against the JSAC is about to go to court, we are being falsely accused of lease violations and threatened with more if QFest, one of New Jersey’s most important LGBT arts events, is held again at QSpot,” said Mikytuck. “What else is there to conclude except that the JSAC is retaliating against us for taking them to court for discrimination.”
QSpot is requesting that Judge Perri intervene to stop the JSAC from continuing to harass, intimidate and threaten the agency while the discrimination case proceeds. 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.
“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, “including our right to hold important LGBT community events such as QFest within it.”