Lauren DiMartino appeared in a recent Baltimore Banner article detailing how the members of Baltimore’s Abell community, came together to support her neighbors after their home burned down in what was believed to be a hate crime against LGBTQ+ individuals.
In June 2022, John Washko and Brian Banschbach were forced to evacuate their home after it was engulfed by an inferno that began as a result of the pride flag on their front porch being lit on fire. Although both men thankfully survived the fire – as did others impacted by the blaze – they lost three of their beloved cats as well as various family albums, pictures, documents, and one-of-a-kind art pieces that had been stored in Washko’s home of 41 years. While the exact motive of the fire is still being investigated, a pride flag hanging across the street was also burned, leading some to believe it was a hate crime. Three other homes on the block suffered severe damages, with two of those households also requiring temporary housing while their homes are rebuilt.
Lauren and her husband, Brendan Basham, live three-doors down, and, seeing the need for a community meeting spot, they set up a makeshift café outside their home they named for one of Washko’s cats: Café Charles. Soon, other neighbors donated items to the café, including another table, chairs, flowers, and even an espresso machine.
Although Washko and Banschbach, who are staying in temporary housing in another part of the city until their home is rebuilt, won’t be able to move home for several more months, Washko visits Café Charles every weekday morning to connect with neighbors and keep up with their home’s construction.
Lauren joined Brown Goldstein & Levy to represent clients across various areas of civil rights law, including fair housing, education and disability rights, police misconduct, and workplace discrimination. Recently, she was part of the BGL team who obtained a federal district court victory on behalf of a married gay employee who challenged Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) withdrawal of health insurance benefits for his husband under Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and the Maryland Equal Pay Act.