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Gay homebuyers sue neighbor for homophobic harassment

Updated: Jul 9

July 8, 2024 (Syracuse, NY) – CNY Fair Housing announces the filing of a federal housing

discrimination lawsuit on behalf of two St. Lawrence County residents that have been subjected

to persistent sex and sexual orientation based harassment and intimidation by their next-door

neighbor for almost two years.

Plaintiffs McKay Burley and Tyson Thomas, a gay couple, purchased their home in Massena,

New York in early 2023. Their neighbor, Charles Chapman, who leases a unit next door, moved

in shortly after they closed on their home.

As alleged in the complaint, Chapman has harassed Burley and Thomas since the beginning of

April 2023. The harassment has included the use of anti-gay slurs, menacing behavior, and

threats of physical violence, including references to the use of weapons. Chapman’s

discriminatory conduct has deprived Burley and Thomas of the ability to peacefully enjoy their

home, forced them to abandon their garden, and made them reluctant to have guests or visitors,

who they fear will be subjected to harassment as well. Burley and Thomas also face

apprehension any time they attempt to take their dogs out for a walk.

As stated in the complaint, Burley and Thomas have reported Chapman’s harassment to local

police and law enforcement agencies on several occasions. Although an order of protection was

issued against Chapman, and despite the fact that he has been charged with multiple criminal

violations, including aggravated harassment, Chapman has violated the order of protection on at

least four occasions. Chapman has also pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to his

harassment of the plaintiffs and has been placed on probation for three years.

“As first time buyers, my partner and I were excited to move into our new home, especially after

realizing how many acquaintances we had as neighbors,” said Burley. “That sense of excitement

and belonging came crashing down after our lives were threatened by Mr. Chapman, who moved

in next door just months after us. I am no longer that helpless queer child I once was, but a fully

realized and liberated adult who knows there are real consequences to abusing a fellow

community member for their sexuality, race, religion, or other protected characteristics. That’s

why I reached out to CNY Fair Housing for additional help.”

“Fair housing laws guarantee a right to every person in this state and in this country to buy and

enjoy a home regardless of who they love,” said Sally Santangelo, Executive Director of CNY

Fair Housing. “The Defendant’s appalling harassment of Mr. Burley and Mr. Thomas because of

their sexual orientation is a blatant violation of their civil rights. CNY Fair Housing is resolved

to assist them in vindicating their rights and regaining the sense of safety and security that their

home should afford them.”

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