Fighting Anti-LGBTQ+ Hiring Practices By Religious Organizations

Updated: Jan 15


Seattle lawyer Matt Woods spent more than three years volunteering his legal skills for the Union Gospel Mission. When a full-time staff position opened up, he leapt at the chance to apply for his "dream job" working for the poor and homeless.

He was initially encouraged to apply because of his outstanding job performance, but when he told the managing attorney at Union Gospel that he was in a relationship with a man, they told him not to bother submitting an application.

The Washington Law Against Discrimination protects the fundamental civil rights of Washingtonians to live, to work, and to enjoy public accommodations, unburdened by discrimination. Religious nonprofit employers are exempt from the law, except when the employee's job responsibilities are not religious in nature. The position Matt was applying for had nothing to do with the religious mission of Union Gospel.

While we understand and respect that the law provides an exemption for religious nonprofit employers, this should not be used carte blanche to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. Legal Voice has been fighting cases like this in court for years. Matt was wrongfully denied his right to obtain employment without discrimination, so we have taken the issue to the Washington Supreme Court.

In October, our co-counsel Denise Diskin, the executive director of QLaw Foundation,

and formerly with Teller & Associates, argued the case before the Washington Supreme Court. We are awaiting a decision from the Washington Supreme Court.

As a cisgender, white man, Matt understands the intersectional oppression that many trans, non-binary, and people of color face. "I was able to bring this case and ask this question of the courts from a place of relative privilege, so it felt like an honor and a duty to do so."

We are honored to stand with Matt and his willingness to turn his painful experience into an opportunity to uplift others and be a catalyst for systemic change.

(Matt Woods at left.)

#2020 #LGBTQ #discrimination

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