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East Texas Couple’s Eviction Prompts Landmark Transgender Rights Case

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Roxanne Joganik, left, and Darlina Anthony outside their RV in Seven Points, where they moved after being evicted from a park in Athens.
David Taffet/Dallas Voice
Roxanne Joganik, left, and Darlina Anthony outside their RV in Seven Points, where they moved after being evicted from a park in Athens.

Roxanne Joganik moved into the Texan RV Park in Athens—the “black-eyed pea capital of the world,” halfway between Tyler and Corsicana—in April 2011. She was in her mid-50s, a Texas Army National Guard veteran living on Social Security in a trailer with her partner, Darlina Anthony. They had a happy, modest life in the park, enjoying the hillside scenery, grilling with neighbors and helping the owners, a couple who performed as a country gospel duo, fix the wireless Internet when it went out.

But when a man named George Toone bought the park in spring 2012, according to a federal lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, it was the end of Joganik’s good times in Athens—and the start of what could be a landmark civil rights case.

Trouble began, according to the Justice Department complaint, when Joganik explained to Toone that she’s a transgender woman and asked his permission to wear women’s clothes around the park. He refused, saying it would create the wrong atmosphere for the park. He worried about children seeing her at the pool.

Soon it became clear Toone wanted to force her out of the park altogether. As Joganik told the Rare Reporter blog in September, Toone circulated a new set of park rules that seemed aimed at her: a non-discrimination clause pointedly omitted any protections based on gender. Another clause outlawed killing wildlife on park grounds; Joganik sometimes killed turtles in the pond that stole bait off her hook.

Joganik says Toone refused to accept her rent. When Anthony, who is bisexual, offered to pay it instead, she says, Toone told her “he didn’t like my kind either.”

Within a month, Joganik and Anthony found an eviction notice posted on their trailer door. They insisted on a formal eviction hearing in a county justice of the peace court, and lost. In July, they were finally evicted by law enforcement.

“Fifteen deputies to evict two women,” Joganik told the Dallas Voice. “It was crazy.”

Joganik and Anthony filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which did its own investigation and decided their eviction violated the Fair Housing Act. The federal statute bars discrimination based on gender. Experts say it’s likely the first time the Justice Department has gone to court over housing discrimination against a transgender person.

Joganik’s case is the latest sign of HUD’s interest in protecting LGBT housing rights. In June 2012, the department banned any housing provider that receives HUD grants from asking questions about sexual orientation or gender identity. This summer, HUD released its first-ever estimate of discrimination against same-sex couples, showing LGBT couples were just as likely to face discrimination in states with laws against it.

A 2011 survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality shows the situation is more dire when the person is transgender: One in five transgender people reported being denied a home or apartment, one in five said they’d been homeless and one in 10 had been evicted. For non-white people, the numbers were even higher.

Now that the Justice Department suit has been filed, Joganik wouldn’t discuss her case with the Observer—except to say this: “Anybody, no matter who you are and how you are, you should be able to live how you want in this country.”

  • Becklev

    I hope they win, but I doubt it. And even if they did, would they really want to go back and live with the nasty, bigoted jerk who evicted them? I sure wouldn’t. I just hope that someday, he needs help and the only person available to give it is transgender. Serve him right if they refused, though they’d probably be as gracious as most trans people and still help him.

    • Mr. Fusion

      Sometimes, just being able to walk around in front of the loser is such delicious joy that it is a priceless win.

      • Becklev

        True enough. Snickering is fun, too.

  • Sleepless in Midland

    But does an RV in a rented space in a trailer park meet the definition of housing?

    • Roxanne Feme Fatel Joganik

      PROPERTY CODE
      TITLE 8. LANDLORD AND TENANT
      CHAPTER 94. MANUFACTURED HOME TENANCIES

      SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS

      Sec. 94.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
      (1) “Landlord” means the owner or manager of a manufactured home community and includes an employee or agent of the landlord.
      (2) “Lease agreement” means a written agreement between a landlord and a tenant that establishes the terms, conditions, and other provisions for placing a manufactured home on the premises of a manufactured home community.
      (3) “Manufactured home” has the meaning assigned by Section 1201.003, Occupations Code, and for purposes of this chapter, a reference to a manufactured home includes a recreational vehicle.
      (4) “Manufactured home community” means a parcel of land on which four or more lots are offered for lease for installing and occupying manufactured homes.
      (5) “Manufactured home community rules” means the rules provided in a written document that establish the policies and regulations of the manufactured home community, including regulations relating to the use, occupancy, and quiet enjoyment of and the health, safety, and welfare of tenants of the manufactured home community.
      (6) “Manufactured home lot” means the space allocated in the lease agreement for the placement of the tenant’s manufactured home and the area adjacent to that space designated in the lease agreement for the tenant’s exclusive use.
      (7) “Normal wear and tear” means deterioration that results from intended use of the premises, including breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition, but the term does not include deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, equipment, or chattels by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest or invitee of the tenant.
      (8) “Park model unit” means a recreational vehicle that is designed primarily as temporary living quarters for recreation, camping, or seasonal use and that is built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels, and has a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set-up mode.
      (9) “Premises” means a tenant’s manufactured home lot, any area or facility the lease authorizes the tenant to use, and the appurtenances, grounds, and facilities held out for the use of tenants generally.
      (10) “Recreational vehicle” means a vehicle that is primarily designed as a temporary living quarters for recreational camping or travel use and that is permanently tied to, affixed, or anchored to the premises as in the case of a park model unit.
      (11) “Tenant” means a person who is:
      (A) authorized by a lease agreement to occupy a lot to the exclusion of others in a manufactured home community; and
      (B) obligated under the lease agreement to pay rent, fees, and other charges.
      Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 801, Sec. 1, eff. April 1, 2002. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 75, Sec. 1, eff. May 16, 2003; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1276, Sec. 14A.808, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

      • Sleepless in Midland

        B. John McDaniel, KE5PL

    • Roxanne Feme Fatel Joganik

      Sec. 94.002. APPLICABILITY. (a) This chapter applies only to the relationship between a landlord who leases property in a manufactured home community and a tenant leasing property in the manufactured home community for the purpose of situating a manufactured home or a recreational vehicle on the property.
      (b) This chapter does not apply to the relationship between:
      (1) a landlord who owns a manufactured home and a tenant who leases the manufactured home from the landlord;
      (2) a landlord who leases property in a manufactured home community and a tenant leasing property in the manufactured home community for the placement of personal property to be used for human habitation, excluding a manufactured home or a recreational vehicle; or
      (3) a landlord and an employee or an agent of the landlord.
      Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 801, Sec. 1, eff. April 1, 2002.

    • Roxanne Feme Fatel Joganik

      Thats Texas Law..OK

    • Roxanne Feme Fatel Joganik

      Sec. 94.010. DISCLOSURE OF OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT. (a) A landlord shall disclose to a tenant, or to any governmental official or employee acting in an official capacity, according to this section:
      (1) the name and either a street or post office box address of the holder of record title, according to the deed records in the county clerk’s office, of the premises leased by the tenant or inquired about by the governmental official or employee acting in an official capacity; and
      (2) if an entity located off-site from the manufactured home community is primarily responsible for managing the leased premises, the name and street address of that entity.
      (b) Disclosure to a tenant under Subsection (a) must be made by:
      (1) giving the information in writing to the tenant on or before the seventh day after the date the landlord receives the tenant’s written request for the information;
      (2) continuously posting the information in a conspicuous place in the manufactured home community or the office of the on-site manager or on the outside of the entry door to the office of the on-site manager on or before the seventh day after the date the landlord receives the tenant’s written request for the information; or
      (3) including the information in a copy of the tenant’s lease or in written manufactured home community rules given to the tenant before the tenant requests the information.
      (c) Disclosure of information to a tenant may be made under Subsection (b)(1) or (2) before the tenant requests the information.
      (d) Disclosure of information to a governmental official or employee must be made by giving the information in writing to the official or employee on or before the seventh day after the date the landlord receives a written request for the information from the official or employee.
      (e) A correction to the information may be made by any of the methods authorized and must be made within the period prescribed by this section for providing the information.
      (f) For the purposes of this section, an owner or property manager may disclose either an actual name or an assumed name if an assumed name certificate has been recorded with the county clerk.
      (g) A landlord who provides information under this section violates this section if:
      (1) the information becomes incorrect because a name or address changes; and
      (2) the landlord fails to correct the information given to a tenant on or before the 15th day after the date the information becomes incorrect.
      Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 801, Sec. 1, eff. April 1, 2002.

      Sec. 94.011. LANDLORD’S AGENT FOR SERVICE OF PROCESS. (a) In a lawsuit by a tenant to enforce a legal obligation of the owner as landlord of the manufactured home community, the owner’s agent for service of process is determined according to this section.
      (b) The owner’s management company, on-site manager, or rent collector for the manufactured home community is the owner’s authorized agent for service of process unless the owner’s name and business street address have been furnished in writing to the tenant.
      Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 801, Sec. 1, eff. April 1, 2002.

      Sec. 94.012. VENUE. Venue for an action under this chapter is governed by Section 15.0115, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
      Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 801, Sec. 1, eff. April 1, 2002.

  • Max Vincent

    I’m truly sorry you were discriminated against. But killing turtles is horrible. As someone who has fished since I was old enough to hold a cane pole at the age of 3, and I am now 53, there is never any reason to kill turtles. Throw your line out deeper or move away from them. They have every right to exist where they are. YOU are infringing on THEIR territory and not the other way around. You’re discriminating against them just like you were discriminated against. I don’t believe in killing any kind of life that co-exists in any fishing habitat. It is all there for a reason.