What a mom says happened at Cinemark Hazlet 12 should go down as a training manual in how not to operate a movie theater.

Christine Gallinaro took her son John to see “Elemental” there. He is 15 years old, absolutely loves movies, has autism and is non-verbal. At some point in the evening John indicated to his mom that he needed to use the bathroom. There’s no family restroom at this theater. Because of his autism, he needs someone to be with him.

My son is not equipped to go into a men’s bathroom in a public setting alone,” Gallinaro told nj.com. “I took him to the women’s bathroom.

She said the few women who were in the ladies' room could tell he was a special needs kid and one even gave her a knowing, sympathetic smile. In other words, it was quite obvious to anyone with half a heart what was going on here. All was fine.

That is until, according to a lawsuit now filed, the 59-year-old manager of the theater confronted her and belittled her and her son loudly in front of other patrons with things like, “A grown man should not be in the women’s restroom,” and “This is not a transgender bathroom!”

Khotcharak Siriwong
Khotcharak Siriwong

The lawsuit claims there were no complaints from customers and the manager ordered them to leave the theater and told another worker to call the police on them.

A discrimination lawsuit names the Hazlet theater, along with Cinemark USA, the manager, an assistant manager and others.

The mom’s lawyer said in a statement,

Ms. Gallinaro’s 15-year-old son, who is diagnosed with autism and severe speech delays, was traumatized by blatantly discriminatory conduct on the part of defendants … simply because he needed to use the bathroom while seeing a movie with his mother.

If it really went down this way, and since nj.com attempted to reach this manager and to get a statement from Cinemark and nobody would talk I feel it likely did go down this way, this is shameful. Has our nation’s irrational fear and hatred of the trans community reached the point that grown women will berate special needs families in public? Who did this manager think she was helping? All the women who didn’t complain one bit?

I’m not normally one to believe in litigation. I’ve never sued anyone in my life for anything. But in this case I hope she wins big.

New Jersey has one of the highest autism rates of all 50 states. (Some studies say Florida has surpassed us.) 1 in 34 children in New Jersey are diagnosed with ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

One of the few bright spots in this poor kid’s life was watching movies. Way to make the world a colder place lady.

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