Denny’s restaurant corporation in Maine has reversed its current restroom policy and will now permit all customers to use restrooms consistent with their gender identities.
The agreement, announced on Monday, is the result of a lawsuit brought by Brianna Freeman against the chain’s Auburn, Maine restaurant after Freeman was denied access to the women’s restroom.
In 2007, Brianna Freeman , was a regular customer of Denny’s restaurant. During visits there, she had regularly used the women’s bathroom without objection and had even met with the restaurant manager to explain her situation. But, that October, the manager told her that he’d gotten a complaint that she, a male, had used the women’s restroom.
The manager told Freeman that, since she had not yet undergone a transsexual operation and wasn’t considered a biological female, she would have to use the men’s room in the future.
Freeman filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in 2009, claiming the restaurant had discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation. The agency’s investigator found reasonable grounds for the basis of the complaint and, when the two sides couldn’t reach agreement later that year, Freeman filed suit in Androscoggin County Superior Court.
Last year, Denny’s sought to dismiss the case but, in ruling against the restaurant chain, Justice William Brodrick wrote that the Maine Human Rights Act is aimed at preventing discrimination in public accommodation on account of sexual orientation, finding that Freeman had “adequately plead a claim that Denny’s prohibited her from using the women’s restroom because of her sexual orientation.”
Brodrick’s ruling cleared the way for the case to proceed to trial, and during the past year attorneys for Denny’s and Freeman, including Freeman’s local attorney Jeffrey Neil Young of McTeague Higbee in Topsham, worked to negotiate a settlement.
According to Brian Mesley, a spokesman for Rockport-based Realty Resources Hospitality, “we recognize and support Ms. Freeman’s gender transition over the past three and a half years.”
For Freeman, the bottom line is, “for me and other transgender patrons is that Denny’s has welcomed us to use the restroom that is consistent with how we live our lives. That makes good sense, any other rule is just not workable for anyone.”