Judge Agrees Lambda Can Argue that Housing Law Harms Same-Sex Couples

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Argument: January 25 at 10:00 a.m.
January 24, 2002

(NEW YORK, January 24, 2002) — Justice Richard Rivera of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Kings County has granted the request by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund to participate as a friend-of-the-court in a case challenging the new housing regulation that makes it easier for landlords to harass and evict many lesbian and gay couples if they do not divide expenses equally.

In its four-page written decision and order issued Wednesday evening, the court concluded that New York State’s objections to Lambda’s participation had “no basis” and were “without merit.”

Lambda Staff Attorney Adam Aronson, author of Lambda’s brief, said, “This decision opens the way for us to show the court that many lesbian and gay tenants who struggle financially could be harassed or lose their homes because of the new roommate regulation.”

On Friday, January 25, at 10:00 a.m., the Court will hear arguments in Brooklyn Housing v. Lynch to decide the merits of legal challenges to a broad array of regulations in the new Rent Stabilization Code, including the roommate regulation opposed by Lambda. Lambda Staff Attorney Adam Aronson will be present for oral argument and be available for comment after the hearing.

The new Code includes a regulation that prohibits any rent-stabilized tenant not named on a lease from paying more than a “proportionate share” of the rent. The regulation affects thousands of tenants in New York City and Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland counties.

Lambda’s brief explains that, like many married couples, lesbian and gay couples commonly have only one partner named on the lease, co-mingle finances and divide rent based on ability to pay. If the partner whose name is on the lease pays less than half the rent, a landlord may try to rely on the new regulation to evict the couple. The regulation does not apply to married couples. Aronson noted, “The regulation’s exemption for married couples proves yet again that without the right to marry, we in the lesbian and gay community are treated as second-class citizens.”

Lambda also argues that before issuing the new regulation, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) failed to comply with New York law requiring it to consider the impact that the regulation would have on different groups of tenants, including lesbian and gay couples.

The State Legislature passed the Roommate Law in 1983 specifically to prohibit landlords from evicting unmarried couples, including lesbians and gay men, based on their marital status. In issuing the new “proportionate share” regulation, DHCR is trying to exploit its regulatory authority to do an end run around the Roommate Law.

The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Legal Services, Legal Services for New York City, and the law firm of Himmelstein, McConnell & Gribben are representing numerous tenant and low-income housing groups that are appearing as plaintiffs in this case.

The oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS, Lambda has its headquarters in New York and regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. Lambda plans to open an office in Dallas in 2002.

WHAT: Oral argument in Brooklyn Housing v. Lynch WHO: Lambda Staff Attorney Adam Aronson; Brooklyn Legal Services Counsel Edward Josephson WHERE: 15 Willoughby Street, Courtroom 102, Brooklyn WHEN: Friday, January 25 at 10:00 a.m.

(Brooklyn Housing v. Lynch, No. 14191/01)

Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)
Adam Aronson 212-809-8585 x 223



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