Georgia is one of the 29 states in the U.S. where you can be fired for being gay, but that isn’t stopping a teacher there from suing the Catholic school that allegedly fired him over his plans to marry another man.
Music teacher Flint Dollar has filed a lawsuit claiming Macon, Georgia, Catholic school Mount de Sales Academy discriminated against him based on gender, NPR reports. Dollar can’t sue the school for bias against him based on sexual orientation because federal law does not bar such discrimination — and neither does the state of Georgia.
Dollar’s lawyer, Charles Cox, argues Dollar can use Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — which forbids discrimination based on gender — to sue the school because he was essentially penalised for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
“When you fire somebody because they are engaging in a same-sex marriage, I think that pretty clearly fits with gender discrimination,” Cox told NPR. “You’re being fired because you’re not complying with traditional gender stereotypes, and that’s wrong, and we believe it’s unlawful.”
NPR points out that innovative lawyers have used this argument before. However, these suits weren’t typically successful until a judge ruled in April 2014 that a gay man named Peter TerVeer had legal standing to sue the Library of Congress under Title VII. Here’s what that judge had to say, as reported in the Washington Blade:
As Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant denied him promotions and created a hostile work environment because of Plaintiff’s nonconformity with male sex stereotypes, Plaintiff has met his burden of settling forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure.”
Here’s how one of TerVeer’s lawyers explained the situation to NPR: “His romantic or intimate interest in men is something that the women workers at the office were not penalised for, but he was.”
The cases filed by TerVeer and Dollar suggest that, even in states without specific legal protections for gay workers, employees may still strike back against their employers if they’re fired for their same-sex relationships.
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