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Legal action launched in row between National Theatre and lesbian group

Craig Simpson
Ms Anne Ruzylo, who claims she was refused service at the National Theatre

Legal action is being launched in a dispute between the National Theatre and a group of lesbian claimants.

A group of women claim their human rights were violated when they were refused service at a theatre bar in July this year.

They allege they were turned away for sporting t-shirts with definitions, including  “Lesbian – noun - a woman who loves other women”, before being confronted and asked to leave by security.

The National Theatre “vigorously” disputes these claims and contends that the women were excluded for their behaviour on the day, and not for their clothing. 

It was earlier claimed by the institution that the lesbian campaigners, who had been protesting on the day of the day inncident, displayed “abusive behaviour” during disturbances at the venue.  

This is also disputed, and lawyers acting for the group will argue the National Theatre discriminated against the women for expressing their sexuality, and have notified the London venue of impending legal action.

In legal documents seen by The Telegraph, it is claimed that the lesbian women were turned away due to staff feeling their t-shirts would offend a transgender colleague.

“It’s a kind of liberal, inclusive enemy, which I think obfuscates it, makes it a lot harder for people to see,” said Dr Julia Long, who was among the women present at the National on July 5 this year, and in whose name the legal action is being launched.

She added:  “We are taking this case, absolutely, for lesbians everywhere.

“If the National Theatre can get away with barring lesbians from their premises for wearing t-shirts saying who we are, that is terrifying.”

Dr Julia Long (left) and Ms Anne Ruzylo, who are taking legal action

A spokeswoman for the National Theatre has countered the claims, saying: “We embrace and celebrate diversity in all its forms, and will always do what we must to ensure that all customers and staff are treated with dignity and respect. 

“The threatened claim is baseless and will be defended vigorously

The women, according to a legal letter, had been protesting against Stonewall’s Children and Young People Conference held in London, objecting to the LGBT charity’s stance on transgenderism, before heading for a drink at the theatre on the Southbank.

It is claimed in a pre-action letter sent to the National that theatre staff made the friends feel “very unwelcome”, and it is alleged the incident violated their right to assembly and right to free expression under the Human Rights Act.  

The National however has strongly denied the merit of these claims.  The theatre had made a statement immediately following the incident in July, claiming there was a “series of disturbances” and “abusive behaviour towards our staff”.  This has been denied.