A Florida judge ruled that a “clothing-optional” resort catering to gay men in Key West should not be allowed to restrict women from staying there or accessing the areas of the resort where guests typically disrobe.
In an order issued on June 30, Administrative Law Judge Brittany Finkbeiner recommended that the Florida Commission on Human Relations should find that the New Orleans House “engaged in unlawful discrimination” when it prohibited Amina Chaudhry from making a reservation in July 2022.
Chaudhry, a 38-year-old cisgender woman who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, previously filed a complaint with the commission alleging that the resort’s policies discriminate against cisgender women and transgender and nonbinary people. The New Orleans House’s policy requires guests to be “adult males 18 years of age or over only.”
But the Commission on Human Relations ruled back in February that “no reasonable cause” exists to believe the resort violated Florida’s civil rights law. Chaudhry subsequently appealed that ruling, reports The Messenger.
While Finkbeiner’s ruling is not binding, the commission must consider her findings before issuing a final decision.
Chaudhry told The Messenger she hopes the ruling will ensure other businesses aren’t allowed to discriminate against anyone, and implied her complaint may have broader implications, especially for members of the transgender community, who may experience discrimination in public accommodations.
“The implication is if [New Orleans House is] allowed to discriminate against any genders they don’t want coming in there, then any other place of public accommodations can do the same thing,” she said.
New Orleans House says it allows anyone to stay at the resort, but restricts access to the “clothing-optional” parts of the facility.
Russell Cormican, the attorney for New Orleans House, criticized the judge’s ruling, claiming Finkbeiner “totally sidestepped” what Cormican believes is the most important issue at play: the privacy rights of New Orleans House guests who have deliberately sought out a male-only, clothing-optional facility and wish not to be in a state of undress around non-males.
“There’s areas of the hotel that are set aside for men to be nude,” Cormican said. “I mean, it’s like if I showed up at LA Fitness and as a man, I insisted on standing in the women’s dressing room.”
Cormican told The Messenger he plans to file an objection to the judge’s order with the Commission on Human Relations.
Chaudhry has also filed a discrimination complaint with the commission against Island House Key West, another all-male, clothing-optional resort less than a mile away from New Orleans House, after she attended a Pride kickoff cocktail party that was opened up to the public, but was told she wouldn’t be able to stay inside the main complex overnight.
Island House claims it rents one- and two-bedroom apartment units to women in a facility adjacent to the resort’s main complex, but does not allow women inside the main, clothing-optional areas.
Island House also claims to have negotiated agreements with a third-party guest house and gym, both of which allow female guests from Island House to utilize their facilities.
If the commission rules in her favor, Chaudhry says she does not intend to stay at New Orleans House — having only challenged the resort’s guest policy out of principle — but feels “completely vindicated” by the judge’s findings.
“Living in Key West and going through all of this, there’s this just kind of pervasive sense that I was the one in the wrong,” she said. “Like I was some kind of crazy lunatic who was going against the natural order of things.”
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