Costume store sued after manager allegedly chased and threatened gay man

A West Virginia man is suing a costume store after the store manager allegedly called him anti-gay slurs and threatened him.

LGBTQ+ rights group Fairness West Virginia filed a lawsuit on Trevor Anderson’s behalf last month, according to a press release. The manager of Spirit Halloween in Charleston, Wv., called him a “faggot”, after which he chased Anderson out of the store and chased him through the parking lot threatening to fight him.

In the suit, Anderson says he went to return a suit to the store. When he arrived at the cash register, the manager, Thelmon Penn, took the place of the cashier. When Anderson said he was returning the suit because it didn’t fit, Anderson says Penn told him, “Maybe you shouldn’t try wearing women’s clothes.”

Anderson then told Penn he wanted her contact information. “I’ll give you my name, but I won’t give my number to one [faggot]“, Penn allegedly said, according to the lawsuit.

“Get out of my store,” he continued before threatening to “beat his ass” if Anderson returned.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

In it, attorneys for Anderson allege that Spirit Halloween and its employee violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and the Charleston Local Equity Act, both of which protect against discrimination on the basis of on sexual orientation.

The complaint also claims that the director deliberately inflicted emotional distress on Anderson.

A representative for Spirit of Halloween was not immediately available for comment.

“Things have to change,” Anderson said in the statement. “Discrimination must stop. I want my story to help make things better for everyone, but especially the LGBTQ community. Everyone, no matter who they are or who they love, everyone should feel safe in the community in which they live.

Anderson added that he was worried about going out in public. “There were times when I didn’t even feel like running errands or going out in public – even to work – because the anxiety of leaving the safety of my home was too much to handle.”

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said incidents like Anderson’s experience affect both the victim and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

“The truth is, discrimination is a real problem in our state, and that’s why it’s so important that we have laws in place to protect people like Trevor,” Schneider said. “We need our leaders in the Legislature and Congress to take this seriously. No one should have to go through what Trevor did. No one should live in fear.

Attorney Ben Salango represents Anderson for Fairness West Virginia. He filed one of the first anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination lawsuits in the state, according to the organization.

“Whether at work, applying for jobs, or simply swapping an item in a store, our friends in the LGBTQ community face intolerable discrimination,” Salango said. “Spirit Halloween Head Office is well aware of this incident. However, to date there has been no apology for the outrageous and discriminatory actions of its director. Spirit Halloween left Mr. Anderson no alternative but to take legal action.

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