According to the L.A. Daily News, 31 year-old Lapriss Gilbert plans to file a lawsuit against a private security company after a routine trip to the Social Security office Monday turned into 30 minutes of shock, disbelief and irritation, who was forced to leave the federal building by a guard who objected to her “lesbian.com” T-shirt.
As she headed for a line to pick up a Social Security card for her son, Gilbert was stopped by a guard who said her T-shirt, naming an educational and resource Web site for gay women, was offensive.
She said the guard, who works for a private company hired by the Department of Homeland Security, demanded that she leave the building or face arrest.
“As an African-American and a lesbian, I haven’t been through one day without facing some sort of discrimination … but this is just shocking,” said Gilbert, 31.
Lori Haley, a federal spokeswoman for the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – which is under the Homeland Security umbrella – said the guard was out of line.
“We believe that the actions of the contract security guard were inappropriate and unacceptable – we have notified his company, Paragon, of our position in the matter,” Haley said.
A security guard identified by Lapriss Gilbert as the one who told her to leave declined to comment.
The guard cited the document, The Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property, as proof of his jurisdiction over Gilbert’s attire, she said.
The document does not specifically address what type of clothing is allowed in federal buildings.
After being kicked out of the federal building, Gilbert called her mother, Tanya Gilbert, who calls herself a longtime activist for gay rights.
The mother and daughter have had same-sex partners for many years.
Tanya Gilbert said she plans to contact her attorney today to file a lawsuit against the Paragon Security Company.
“In 30 years as an activist, this is one of the most unsettling things I have seen. When she called me I told her to wait right there,” said Tanya Gilbert, who recently moved to the Van Nuys area from Chicago.
When the mother arrived, she called the LAPD to protest her daughter’s removal. But before four Los Angeles police officers arrived with at least one federal agent, Lapriss was told she could come back into the building and was escorted to the front of the line by another Paragon security guard.
Paul Dumont said he witnessed the entire incident.
“For her to be told to leave was completely unnecessary, especially considering how peaceful and quiet she was responding the the security officers,” Dumont said. “Nobody in that office felt her T-shirt was offensive by any means.”
In a statement to police, Dumont said the guard’s “loud, unreasonable, aggressive and angry approach to the situation almost caused chaos.”
An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union said that instances of sexual discrimination are rare in Federal buildings.
“I haven`t seen this type of blatant discrimination in a federal office building before,” said Peter Eliasberg, a family attorney for first amendment rights who spoke on behalf of the ACLU.
Thanks to Lapriss and her fierce momma Tanya, I’ve decided to pull out my gayest shirt (thanks LaJoy) and sport it tomorrow in a show of solidarity. Please oh please let someone kick me out of a building for wearing it…I am soooo ready to retire early and do my “Larry Parker got me $2.1 million dollars” commercial.
Oh and by the way…BLACK GIRLS RULE!