An LGBTQ person was denied entry into the Stonewall Inn because they had a guide dog with them.
58-year-old Lynn Zelvin is blind and self-identifies as queer. Zelvin, who uses pronouns they and them, has lived in New York City for nearly 40 years.
In all those years, Zelvin's found that they prefer the local dive scene over the big gay club scene. That said, Zelvin decided to celebrate Pride with a few friends and one very special one.
Due to Zelvin being blind, they use a guide dog, a 55-pound black lab named Shadow, to get around.
At the start of this month, Zelvin and a few friends named Isabella Kalish, Elena Gibbs, and, of course, Shadow, decided to visit the Stonewall Inn.
The historic bar is known as one of the birthplaces of the LGBTQ rights movement when transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera, and company fought against local police.
Unfortunately, Zelvin never got to step foot into the building as the bouncer and manager wouldn’t allow their guide dog inside.
After showing their IDs, the bouncer asked Zelvin for a “card” for their guard dog, which is illegal. It’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to request paperwork for entrance of a service animal.
After Zelvin refused to hand over such documentation, they were refused entry.
“I just felt numb,” Zelvin told Mic. “I’ve been through this sort of thing so much and I just felt bad for my friends.”
Zelvin’s friend Kalish recorded the above 10-minute video of the conversation with the bouncer and later posted it to Youtube and Twitter. In the video, Zelvin asks to speak to the manager as people walk by silently to go inside.
“Any person there could have said, ‘We’re not going in if this is what’s happening,’” Zelvin said.
After that, Zelvin’s friends went inside to find the manager themselves. When they came back they said, “He doesn’t care that it’s illegal — he doesn’t want a dog in here.”
Unfortunately, Zelvin didn’t get to visit the inside of the Stonewall Inn that night and is annoyed with having to be the advocate for themselves so often.
“It’s up to us to do the enforcement, which puts us in an adversarial relationship with any place we choose to do business with,” said Zelvin.
And they're not the only one upset.
“People have a right to go into public places, including the Stonewall Inn, with their service animal,” Christina Asbee, director of assistive technology and voting access programs at Disability Rights New York, said in an email to Mic. “Under federal, New York state and New York City laws and regulations, a business discriminates against people with a service animal when it asks for service dog paperwork, medical records and other invasive documentation and information.”
While people with disabilities have learned to fight for their rights, it would have been great if at least one person had stayed to fight for Zelvin. This is just one example of the struggles that people with disabilities face in both gay spaces and in the world in general.
“People have to start noticing, start caring and speak up,” Zelvin said.
In order to help change for the better, and to twist this PR nightmare we're sure, Stonewall has announced that it will be holding sensitivity training on the ADA July 18 at 1pm for the Stonewall staff and surrounding bars.
Here's hoping everyone listens and takes notes.