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A former Brigham Young University student has sued a Provo apartment complex over his eviction a move he claims followed a violent dispute with roommates who wanted him ejected from the residence, the university and the LDS Church because they believed he is gay.
Andrew White was served an eviction notice by managers of The Village at South Campus on Jan. 23, 10 days after the disagreement between the former student and his three male roommates escalated from gay slurs into fisticuffs, court papers say.
It came four days before top leaders of Utah's predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called for a statewide law barring discrimination against LGBT Utahns in housing and employment. Weeks later, Utah lawmakers overwhelmingly backed such a bill, coupled with religious-liberty protections, and the governor signed it into law.
A copy of the eviction notice, filed along with White's civil lawsuit complaint in Provo's 4th District Court, alleges White is a nuisance who has violated the policies in his lease, including residential living standards and BYU's honor code. The notice provides no details of those alleged violations of the honor code at the LDS Church-owned school.
The eviction notice also asserts White violated the "quiet enjoyment of others."
White contends in court papers that he was wrongly ejected and said the apartment manager, Lance Freeman, caused him emotional disress by disclosing information which had in the past "led directly to an assault on him and a loss of living quarters."
He is seeking more than $101,000 in damages, to cover relocation costs, repair and replacement of personal belongings and as compensation for the fear, anxiety and stress he's suffered since the January dispute.
White's attorney, Daniel Ybarra, filed the civil suit against apartment complex owner Peak Joaquin Holdings, LLC, on March 19, court records show. The complex is one of several private apartment facilities near the university's Provo campus. It is considered "BYU-approved" and agrees to hold tenants to the school's honor code, which includes conduct and behavior standards that generally mirror the religious principles of the LDS Church, such as honesty, chastity and respect for others.
Ybarra declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, citing ongoing settlement talks.
A telephone message left Wednesday for Freeman was not returned.
Court documents do not list an attorney for Peak Joaquin Holdings. No court dates have been set.
White's lawsuit states that he moved into the apartment in October 2014. In early January, he confided to one of his roommates, none of whom is named in the complaint, that he "felt same-sex attraction." Unbeknown to White, the roommate shared the information with the two other roommates, the lawsuit states.
On Jan. 13, the roommates got into an argument over food that quickly spun into a statement that White no longer would "be allowed" to live in the apartment, along with abusive language and threats of physical violence, the lawsuit states.
Court papers also say that the roommates said "because of [White's] homosexuality, he should not be permitted to live in the apartment, to study at Brigham Young University, be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or work at the Missionary Training Center."
White refused to leave the apartment and went to bed, but claims in court papers that the roommates entered his room, dragged him out of bed and began removing his personal belongings from the residence. The documents say the three men again threatened White with physical violence, took his keys and said they would toss his belongings from the roof.
White left and slept in his car and later sought medical treatment for bruised ribs, the lawsuit states.
The next day he called Provo police for help getting some of his belongings. An officer did help him, police Lt. Brandon Post said Wednesday, and later conducted an investigation into the alleged assault. That complaint has been forwarded to the Provo city attorney for consideration of charges, Post said.
White also sought and initially received assistance from Freeman, the apartment manager, who gave him shelter in a vacant apartment and helped arrange for the student to recover his belongings.
Court papers also say that Freeman told others working at the complex that White is gay.
On Jan. 23, at about 3 a.m., Freeman allegedly ordered a staffer, accompanied by police, to enter White's locked apartment as he slept and demand that he surrender the keys to his former residence. Court papers say the incident occurred about two hours after White had gone back for more of his possessions and was again asked by his former roommates to leave.
Later the same day, Freeman posted a three-day eviction notice on White's door and had White's possessions placed in storage, without giving the student time to pursue help from the courts, the lawsuit states.
"The manner of his eviction has caused [White] to fear for his safety," it states, "to have trouble sleeping and to suffer anxiety about his personal safety and the security of his living quarters."
Court papers also say that the eviction incident has caused White to suffer scholastically. He has dropped classes and seen his grades decline.
A check of BYU student records Wednesday indicates White is no longer in school, university spokeswoman Carrie Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the school was aware of White's alleged assault and conducted an investigation. That probe was complete, she said, but added she could not disclose its details or findings.
Jenkins said a student who has feelings of same-sex attraction, but does not act upon them, is not in violation of the school's honor code. An assault, however, would be a violation, she said.
On Thursday, Ybarra told The Salt Lake Tribune that White plans to returns to school.