Civil liberties groups says denial of permit on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal

Manassas , VA -- The ACLU of Virginia today faxed a letter to the Manassas City Council urging them not to deny a special use permit for a home-based massage therapy business because the owner is gay. Although the City Council has approved two other home-based message businesses in the last two years -- and rejected none -- Howard Daniel’s request has provoked an unusual degree of opposition.
Mr. Daniel has substantial neighborhood support for his application, and has presented City Council with a petition signed by thirteen neighbors. But at a public hearing on September 18, nearly two dozen people spoke against Mr. Daniel’s application, the vast majority of whom do not live in his neighborhood and would therefore be completely unaffected by the business.
These opponents cited such concerns as traffic, parking, and preserving the residential character of the neighborhood. However, Mr. Daniel’s business plan specifies that he will have at most one client per evening, between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30. On the weekends, he will have no more than four clients per day, who will be scheduled one at a time and with at least thirty minutes between them. Clients will only park in Mr. Daniel’s own driveway.
One of Mr. Daniel’s neighbors who supported him at the September 18 meeting had his car defaced with anti-gay language.
“It appears that the only reason Mr. Daniel’s application is controversial is because he is gay,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “City Council needs to put aside any biases it or others may have and treat Mr. Daniel’s application the same as anyone else’s.”
Manassas City Council was scheduled to vote on the application the week after the public hearing. Instead, it postponed a vote until this evening’s meeting at 5:30 p.m.
In her letter to City Council, ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg writes that the Supreme Court has held discrimination against lesbians and gays without a rational basis to be unconstitutional. “Mere dislike or disapproval for a particular group does not constitute a rational basis. Nor do flimsy pretextual justifications such as those offered at the September 18 public hearing,” the letter noted.
A copy of the ACLU’s letter to Manassas City Council is found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20061023-Daniel-spec-use-permit-Manassas-City-Council-ltr.pdf.

Contact: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg (Office) 804/644-8022

Stay informed

ACLU of Virginia is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National