QSpot LGBT Center to rally to stop eviction from arts center facility

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Qspot eviction rally 12-11-16
Qspot LGBT Center is holding an eviction rally on December 11, 2016 to stop the JSAC from evicting the organization on December 31, 2016

QSpot LGBT Community Center will hold a Holiday Rally on Sunday, December 11 at 5pm to raise awareness of the LGBT Centers legal problems with the Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove. QSpot has been forced to file a discrimination lawsuit against the JSAC. The lawsuit alleges that Herb Herbst, President of the JSAC, acted out of bias towards the LGBT community when he chose not to renew QSpot’s lease expiring on December 31, 2016.

The rally will include a Holiday ornament contest, a tree lighting ceremony along with music and food for all in the true Holiday spirit of the season.

In the LGBT discrimintaion lawsuit filed by QSpot it is alleged that Herb Herbst’s actions are a violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, which protects tenants against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

John_Mikytuck_at_Garden State Equality event_in 2015
John_Mikytuck_at_Garden State Equality event_in 2015

QSpot is asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent QSpot from being removed from the premises pending further proceedings on its discrimination claim. The suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation, as provided by the LAD.

QSpot has asked that the court hear the matter on an expedited basis. 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.

“Over the past six months, QSpot has taken every reasonable step to encourage the Jersey Shore Arts Center to reconsider their decision not to renew our lease,” said John Mikytuck, QSpot Executive Director. “At each point along the way, Herb Herbst and JSAC’s leadership have absolutely refused to seriously discuss it. With no other options, and little more than a month before eviction, QSpot has been forced to file a lawsuit to protect our home and defend our right to be in it.”

In May, Herbst informed QSpot that their lease at the JSAC would not be renewed stating that “QSpot doesn’t provide arts and education programming.” According to the lawsuit, Herbst’s claim is merely a cover to conceal the real motivation for his decision, bias towards the LGBT community. QSpot does provide extensive arts and education programming including QFest, NJ’s only LGBT film festival which received a 2016 Monmouth Arts Council grant. The QSpot also provides live performances, open mic nights, movie nights, art exhibitions, film club, book club, marching band and other arts programming for the LGBT community. QSpot is also an official field placement site for Monmouth University students completing year long academic internships for graduate and undergraduate degrees.

“The fact that Herb Herbst would prefer to fight a legal battle, rather than keep a great tenant that has paid rent every month, taken great care of and improved their unit, and provided vital services and arts and education programming to the local community, makes it pretty clear that LGBT bias is driving the JSAC’s decision,” said Mikytuck, “it makes no sense.”

“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. “It will be a terrible injustice to QSpot, the LGBT community and our allies if the JSAC is allowed to evict us on New Year’s Eve.”

“We are grateful that Michael Long and Steve Rosatto from Lowenstein Sandler, one of the most well-respected and experienced law firms in the country, are representing us,” said Mikytuck.

“Lowenstein Sandler is proud to stand with QSpot as it defends itself and the LGBT community it serves from unlawful discrimination,” added Michael Long, lead lawyer on the team.

QSpot has asked the court to consider several factors when evaluating the matter. First, JSAC never required QSpot provide arts programming as a condition of tenancy over almost four years in the building. Second, other tenants at the JSAC whose primary businesses are not arts focused are not being evicted due to a lack of arts programming. And finally, that JSAC selectively enforced lease provisions and local regulations when demanding that QSpot remove a rainbow flag, a well-known symbol of the LGBT community, hanging at their entrance for less than one week (as part of a memorial to the Orlando Pulse nightclub victims), while allowing other, more generic signs, to remain hanging on the building for extended periods of time without issue.

“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. “It will be a terrible injustice to QSpot, the LGBT community and our allies if the JSAC is allowed to evict us on New Year’s Eve.”

For the complete lawsuit transcript visit here. For more on QSpot LGBT Community Center visit www.Qspot.org.

This story has been updated with additional information since the December 6, 2016 story ran on this website.