It was supposed to be a happy day.
Cody Sehl, 30, had just received the keys to his new apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and planned to have a few people over to celebrate the occasion Thursday.
The first of his guests to arrive was his boyfriend, Jordan Weatherston Pitts, who, after being unable to buzz him in, Sehl met downstairs to let in.
“I went down and greeted him with a nice hug, and a few pecks on the lips,” Sehl told InsideEdition.com. “I was really excited about the place, and he made a joke, ‘Oh, please tell me this isn’t a six-story walk-up,’ and I said, ‘No, we’ve got an elevator, let’s take it.’”
The couple got into the empty elevator, embraced again, shared another kiss and made their way up to Sehl’s apartment.
“Before we reached the top floor, I got a call from the super,” Sehl said.
It was the fifth or sixth call that day from the building’s superintendent, with whom Sehl said he had been in frequent communication to discuss items in his apartment that needed attention. But this call was different, Sehl said.
“He’s screaming and yelling, and at first I didn’t necessarily know if the call was for me,” Sehl said. “He said that what I was doing was illegal, [that] he’s going to threaten to evict me, he’s going to call the management company, the landlord, and I am out of there.”
Sehl, who said that by that point he had put the call on speaker phone, and Weatherston Pitts were confused. Neither could deduce what he had done wrong to incur such ire from the super, they said.
“I said, ‘I don’t understand, what did I do?’ and that’s when he got into, ‘You were kissing a man in the elevator and not a woman,’” Sehl said. “I said, ‘Yeah, that’s my boyfriend’ and that’s when he said, ‘This is a straight building, this is not a gay building, we’re not having any gays move into this building. I’m calling the landlord. We won’t have your kind here.’”
It was a surreal moment for the couple, Weatherston Pitts said.
"I was shocked at what I was hearing; I actually started laughing at first, because I thought it was insane," he said.
It is illegal in New York City to deny a person a housing opportunity based on their sexual orientation.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation is also against the law in New York City, and that includes behaviors, policies and practices such as being denied an apartment application because the building owner is uncomfortable with a person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation; or being told all tenants cohabitating must be related by blood or marriage.
It also includes being asked questions such as: "‘Are you two, like, together?’ ‘Are you gay?’ or if you are told, ‘No homosexuality in my building,’” the NYC Commission on Human Rights and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development note on their joint website, Fair Housing NYC.
Sehl said he told the super as much and was met with more screaming before being hung up on.
“I’m just standing there with Jordan, like, ‘What just happened?’” Sehl said.
One of the other people coming over had previously lived in the building, and when she learned what happened, she apparently spoke to the super, whose tone by then had changed, he said.
“She said to him, ‘You can’t do this,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh I’ll apologize,’ and he comes to my door with her and starts apologizing,” Sehl said. “How do you go from a raging homophobic, ready to evict someone, to now apologizing, looking at my window, saying, ‘Oh, we need to get that fixed?’”
Both Sehl and Weatherston Pitts said they asked the super to leave.
"We said, 'we don't want you here;' I didn't know him, I don't know what the situation could've turned into or escalated into," Weatherston Pitts said. "At that point, we didn't feel safe ... I was just furious that this was where [Sehl] was going to be living ... I worry about his well-being there."
When reached by InsideEdition.com, the super, who identified himself as Choch Singh, said he was unaware of the law when he contacted Sehl about embracing his boyfriend.
“We solved this problem already; I apologized to him already,” said Singh, who said he has worked as a super in that apartment building for about 11 years. “I chatted with him … said, ‘We have to live together, I don’t have no problem with that [his relationship with Weatherston Pitts].’”
When asked if he was sorry for causing Sehl and Weatherston Pitts stress over his comments, it appeared Singh extended his apology specifically because the law protected the couple’s rights.
“I didn’t realize the law was like that,” Singh said. “We have to live together. Everything will be OK with me. I have no problem, I’m sorry.”
Lea Miller, who identified her position as the landlord for the building, said she has spoken with both Sehl and Singh about the incident, which she said “shouldn’t happen again.”
“I spoke with [Sehl] the night that it happened, first I apologized, and the super apologized … what he did was wrong, no excuses,” Miller said.
Sehl said that while he appreciated the response from management, his concerns still remain.
“I’m not trying to get anyone in any sort of trouble, I just want there to be some sort of recourse for what happened,” he said. “I just want to make sure everyone this management company employs as supers knows they can’t bully LGBTQ people, that the law is there to protect us.”
In the wake of the incident, Weatherston Pitts made a formal complaint to the city and took to social media to share his account of what happened, writing on Facebook: “This is blatant discrimination. We have a long way to go.”
He and Sehl received an outpouring of sympathy in response, including by attorneys who have offered their professional support, should it be needed.
“I think that made [the incident] a lot more palatable, knowing this is not a general view,” Sehl said. “All of that support really definitely helped … it’s a shame to think that there are queer people out there who don’t have that sort of support.”
But he also noted the incident occurred on the heels of the city’s celebration of WorldPride 2019, which promotes progress for the LGBTQ community and this year marked 50 years since the Stonewall uprising.
“It’s actually a wild situation, because my boyfriend Jordan is in a new opera called 'Stonewall,' that has been written and directed by queer people for queer people, and it opens this Friday,” Sehl said. “It details the riot that night. He’s been involved in that for the past month, and so our idea of this Pride season has been extremely heightened … yes, progress has been made since those early days, but there’s still a long way to go.”
"I'm in a world right now, where I'm fighting the good fight every day," Weatherston Pitts added. "It's a huge milestone not only for our community but for the art form in general."
As the first major opera to feature a transgender character written for a transgender performer, the show showcases the progress made and has been described as ground-breaking.
"[But] there's a lot of work to do, and it was like [that fact] slapped me in the face when this happened," Weatherston Pitts said.
Singh told InsideEdition.com he was alerted to Sehl and Weatherston Pitts’ interactions by another tenant. Miller said she was unaware another tenant allegedly made a comment until it was brought to her attention by InsideEdition.com.
“It’s unfortunate, there’s discrimination everywhere, but in general, the building is safe and understanding,” she said.
Sehl noted he hopes management looks further into Singh’s claim that he was acting on another tenant’s complaints about him and his boyfriend, and if they find that claim to be true, they speak to his neighbors about the underlying issue there.
“They can’t report me for kissing who I love,” he said.
“I think a lot of queer people police their actions depending on where and when they’re in a certain situation,” Sehl added. “It’s a shame when any queer person has to police their actions in a space that should be safe, that is their home. Every LGBTQ person should know they’re protected by the law, and this bullying is not OK, and they have resources.”