U.S. Court of Appeals Hears Oral Arguments in Lambda Legal's Case Charging Condoleezza Rice with HIV Discrimination
(Washington, D.C., April 27, 2006) — Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of a man who was denied employment as a Foreign Service Officer by the U.S. State Department because he is HIV positive. “Lorenzo Taylor is being denied the job of his dreams — after years of preparing for it — because of a 20-year-old policy that bans every person with HIV regardless of over-all health,” said Jon Givner, Director of Lambda Legal’s HIV Project. “The blanket policy is in violation of federal law requiring reasonable accommodations.”
Lambda Legal represents Taylor, who speaks three languages, holds a Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University and easily passed the rigorous application process required to become a Foreign Service Officer. Lambda Legal’s lawsuit, filed in September 2002, says the State Department’s policy violates the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people with disabilities. The lawsuit seeks a change in the outdated policy. Last spring, federal district court Judge Rosemary Collyer issued an opinion in favor of the State Department saying that the government should not have to accommodate Taylor by letting him use some of his sick and vacation leave, available to all Foreign Service Officers, to travel to see his doctor. Lambda Legal’s appeal argues that the Rehabilitation Act was designed to require employers to make reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis as long as the employee can fulfill the responsibilities of the job — which Taylor can. Currently, if Foreign Service Officers are diagnosed with HIV while on the job, reasonable accommodations are made for those employees. There is no evidence to suggest that this has caused any difficulties for the State Department.
Organizations filing an amicus brief supporting Lambda Legal’s position in the case are the American Academy of HIV Medicine, HIV Medicine Association, and Whitman-Walker Clinic. As part of Lambda Legal's campaign to “Blow the Whistle on Workplace Discrimination,” it has launched an action alert targeting Condoleezza Rice in her official capacity as Secretary of State. The action alert can be found at http://ga4.org/campaign/BTW_StateDept. The alert, charging Rice with HIV discrimination, will be sent to Lambda Legal members today encouraging them to round up their friends and family to tell Rice why the blanket policy is wrong. The resulting petition will be hand delivered to the State Department. In addition, a banner ad featuring Condoleezza Rice is running on the following websites and blogs: www.365gay.com, www.outinamerica.com, www.andrewsullivan.com, www.towleroad.com and www.gayrightswatch.com among others. The case is Taylor v. Rice. Jon Givner, HIV Project Director, and Jennifer Sinton, HIV Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal, are co-counsel on the case with Leslie M. Hill, Elizabeth Leise and Kathleen A. Behan, of Arnold & Porter LLP. ### Contact: Mark Roy: 212-809-8585 ext. 267