When the Department of Housing and Urban Development took up the case of a Cedar Creek Lake couple who were turned out of their trailer park because one of them is transgender, the federal government set out to establish the principle that discrimination based on gender identity falls under sex discrimination.

Roxanne Joganik lived in the Texas RV Park in Athens for a number of years, but when she began presenting as a woman, she was told to move her trailer from the park.

The park had recently been purchased by George Toone, and Joganik told him she was transgender.

“He said he didn’t care, as long as I didn’t dress up,” she said.

Toone said she was disruptive, and he told her to leave because she refused to sign a code of conduct. In its lawsuit, HUD noted there is no dress code in the property’s code of conduct.

Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton reviewed Joganik’s complaint before it went to HUD. He said it could be a landmark case establishing that discrimination against a trans person is a form of gender discrimination.

HUD alleged prohibiting someone from dressing as a female violates fair housing laws.

Toone said he didn’t want Joganik dressed as a woman near the pool because there were children on the property.

Housing law prohibits limiting a person’s use of a property’s facilities or services because of gender.

HUD also claims in its suit that the park’s nondiscrimination policy does not include sex discrimination as legally required and requests to add it were denied.

Familial status is also protected under the Fair Housing Act and not included in the park’s rules. Discrimination against Joganik’s partner falls under that category.

Toone told Joganik wearing women’s clothing around the pool is “not the type of atmosphere we want to promote on private property.” HUD claims in its lawsuit that Toone’s remarks mean he would just rather not have transgender people living on his property.

HUD is pursuing the case under regulations drawn up under the Obama administration claiming trans discrimination falls under the category of gender discrimination. The department is seeking $16,000 in damages on behalf of Joganik “plus additional relief as may be appropriate.”

Although the amount of damages is relatively small, the case is being watched across the country to see if courts agree with the Obama administration’s interpretation of trans protection.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 27, 2013.