Two Silver Spring lesbians have filed a complaint with the Alexandria Human Rights Commission alleging that a country and western club discriminated against them when a doorman asked them to leave because they were dancing together.
Gail Black and Dale Barnhard, noting they are gay but not lovers, said they were confronted by the doorman of GW's on King Street and then took their case to Gary Miller, the owner of the year-old club.
"The owner said something to the effect of, 'Go to your own club,' " said Black, 47, a marketing consultant for agricultural issues.
Black and Barnhard, 43, have asked for a written apology and requested that the club post a sign informing patrons that the restaurant does not discriminate against gay people. Barnhard, a self-employed house painter, also said she would like GW's to make a contribution to an AIDS-oriented cause.
Alexandria is one of the few local communities with an ordinance specifically forbidding discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. State laws forbid establishments that sell alcohol to serve as "a meeting place" for gay men and lesbians, prostitutes and other groups, though those laws have not been enforced for more than 10 years.
Lawrence E. Lindeman, Miller's attorney, said yesterday that he and his client are willing to apologize for the incident and sit down with Black and Barnhard to draft the wording of a posting.
"After we found out about the complaint, we made the employees aware that these were not the kind of things they were supposed to do, the bouncer specifically," said Lindeman. He said he was told the doorman acted independently when he escorted the women to the exit.
Paul Allison, a human rights commissioner and member of the Alexandria Gay and Lesbian Community Association, said "this is the first case of its kind" and that he was unaware of any widespread harassment of gay people in the city.
Patricia Reichler, administrator for the human rights office, said the great majority of complaints filed by gay people involve job-related issues. "Are there other kinds of cases? Yes, a few. Some in housing, where people didn't want to rent to gays, and some in public accommodations, such as stores or restaurants," said Reichler.
Black and Barnhard said they went to GW's in June to exercise their mutual passion for the Texas two-step, a whirling, high-kicking dance. The two-step "is one of the most healthy and wholesome things I can think of," said Black, a Texas native.
"I danced with numerous men, and Dale and I danced together. I guess that disturbed some people," said Black, adding that she dislikes public displays of intimate affection no matter what the circumstance.
Black and Barnhard said they were taken aback when the bouncer approached them and asked that they not dance slowly together. Both women said the two-step does not involve slow and intimate contact.
"It's none of this huggy wuggy stuff. That's not what western dancing is," said Barnhard, who once took second prize in a dance contest at GW's -- with a female partner.
Black said she was so confused when they were shown the door that she tried to pay their tab.
"I was trying to pay the bill and Dale said, 'Don't pay the bill, we're being thrown out,' " Black said. "This was the first time I'd been thrown out of a bar and I didn't know the rules about being bounced."
Both sides said they expected the complaint to be resolved.