Gay Trump supporter and founder of the #WalkAway movement Brandon Straka is suing New York’s LGBT Community Center because the Center cancelled his March 2019 town hall which sought to encourage LGBTQ people to abandon the Democratic Party in favor of the GOP.
Straka’s court filing says “refusing to rent space to LGBTQ people because they are not embracing left-leaning political beliefs is the same as refusing to rent to them because they are LGBTQ.”
Straka had signed a contract with the Center and paid it a $650 rental fee before online activists decried the Center’s hosting of the event and pointed out past anti-LGBTQ statements made by Straka and his town hall co-panelists.
In various social media posts, Straka called non-binary identity “political leftist crap” and claimed the Trump administration isn’t against LGBTQ people (even though it totally is), Rob Smith blamed homophobia on Muslims, Blair White called “transgenderism… a mental disorder” and advocated killing refugees at the southern U.S. border, and Mike Harlow said bisexual Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema “reminds me of a hooker.”
In July 2018, CNN called #WalkAway “pure propaganda” and said the hashtag had been largely pushed onto social media by Russian bots during the 2018 midterm elections.
The Center cancelled Straka’s event in May 2019 and refunded Straka his money. Straka then sued the Center for defamation and discrimination.
In their amended complaint filed with the State Supreme Court in New York County, Straka’s attorneys wrote:
Mr. Straka and #WalkAway promote alternative expressions of LGBT identity by embracing the true meaning of civil libertarianism. The LGBT Center… violates their own mission in addition to engaging in unlawful discriminatory practices by specifically targeting particular members of the LGBT Community whose expression of LGBT identity do not conform to the subjectively homogenous community for which they advocate.
Upon cancelling Straka’s event, the Center issued a statement which read in part:
We strongly oppose censorship and fully stand by our commitment to free speech, but as our space use policy states, we reserve the right to cancel any event that promotes discriminatory speech or bigotry; negatively impacts other groups or individuals that use The Center; or conflicts with, or interferes with, Center-sponsored or produced programming. It has become clear that this event would violate all of these important policies.
The Center never explained the approval process which originally allotted space to host Straka’s event.
The Center has filed a motion to dismiss Straka’s case, stating that Straka’s attorneys haven’t provided any legal or factual basis for his claims of discrimination or defamation. Oral arguments over this point will commence in court on January 14, 2020.