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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 23, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 43
The next big court case?
Gay man sues federal agencies for discrimination
Section One
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The next big court case?
Gay man sues federal agencies for discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Gay man whose discrimination complaint prompted a landmark Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruling in July has now taken the next step and filed a federal lawsuit against two U.S. government agencies.

David Baldwin charges that he was harassed and passed over for promotion at Miami Tower Aviation Administration because of his sexual orientation. He is suing the Federal Aviation Administration - his immediate employer - and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Baldwin says his supervisor regularly made disparaging remarks about his sexual orientation. For example, when Baldwin said that his partner prepared his packed lunch for him each day, the supervisor said the 'comment was inappropriate' and told him to 'get out of the radar room with that kind of talk.'

Baldwin also charges that less qualified straight people were promoted ahead of him.

When he took his complaint to the EEOC, the agency found in his favor, ruling that Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual employees were protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The existing protection against sex discrimination also protects sexual orientation, the EEOC said.

However, a narrow reading of the EEOC ruling would make it apply only to other federal employees, like Baldwin was when he filed the original complaint. By filing a federal lawsuit, Baldwin may get a federal court ruling that applies to all LGB employees.

Absent any federal legislation that protects sexual orientation - and given that a Republican-controlled Congress is not likely to pass such legislation - a federal court ruling may be the best opportunity LGBT employees have to get nationwide civil rights protections.

Baldwin's lawyer, Lowell Kuvin, told Buzzfeed that the outcome of the case could have far-reaching consequences for LGB Americans.

'Mr. Baldwin's case has the ability to affect more people than the [Supreme] Court's Obergefell [marriage] case because there are more gay men and women who have jobs than same-sex couples who want to get married.

'While the decision by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx was a giant step forward for extinguishing sexual orientation discrimination by allowing federal employees to pursue sexual orientation claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII, it was just a small step forward for non-government employees.

'The next logical step for Mr. Baldwin, who would like to see the protection of Title VII extended to non-government employees alleging sexual orientation discrimination, was to bring the issue to the federal courts.'

'I never wanted any special consideration,' Baldwin told Gay Star News. 'I simply wanted the same rights and considerations, and to be covered under existing laws, the same as everyone else. Nothing more, nothing less. It just seems so fundamental and basic, and its time has finally come.'

According to EEOC rules, Baldwin had 90 days after its July 16 ruling to decide whether to accept it or to file a federal lawsuit. He filed his suit on October 13.

His name was redacted from the EEOC decision, but he revealed his identity in an interview with the Washington Blade.

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