Lambda Legal, GLAD Call on U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Law School Nondiscrimination Policy against Christian Legal Society Challenge

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April 19, 2010

Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2010) – Today, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a challenge by a Christian student group to the University of California Hastings Law School non-discrimination policy, Lambda Legal and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) say that public funds and student fees should not be used to support discrimination.

The Christian Legal Society (CLS) filed suit against the school challenging the denial of recognition as an official campus organization because of its refusal to comply with the non-discrimination policy that requires any campus group receiving school funds and other assistance to accept "all comers" – that is, to not discriminate based on race, religion, sexual orientation or other status or belief.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed last month, Lambda Legal and GLAD explained that the claim by CLS that it doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation is procedurally not even raised by this case and is substantively ludicrous. "They exclude anyone who engages in same-sex sexual activity without remorse," said Legal Director Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal. "That describes gay people. Duh. No one is telling CLS that they can't shut their doors to whomever they want. But they can't do that if they expect university funds. It's wrong of them to expect taxpayers and students to pick up the tab for engaging in discrimination against select Hastings' students. This is another case of an anti-gay group claiming it deserves sympathy when its foot hurts due to kicking gay people in the head."

Registration as a student organization at Hastings gives groups the right to use Hastings' name and logo, access to a university email address, limited use of facilities, and modest university funds for travel and other expenses. CLS sued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, arguing that, by not allowing it to become a supported student group, Hastings had violated CLS's rights of free speech, association and religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution. The District Court rejected these claims and found in Hastings' favor, as did the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

"It is important to remember that the Christian student group at Hastings existed for over a decade on campus without a restrictive policy, in compliance with school non-discrimination rules and without conflict," said Gary Buseck, Legal Director of GLAD. "But if groups want to discriminate against students who are members of religious or racial minorities – or who are gay – those groups have no right to demand government assistance in doing so."

Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation Susan Sommer will attend today's oral arguments and will be available for comment. Hastings' gay student group intervened and is represented by The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal Board co-chair Paul Smith of Jenner & Block.

The amicus brief in Christian Legal Society Chapter of University of California, Hastings College of Law v. Martinez (Case No. 08-1371) was prepared by Jon W. Davidson and Susan L. Sommer of Lambda Legal, Gary Buseck and Mary L. Bonauto of GLAD, and Clifford M. Sloan, Bradley A. Klein, Daniele M. Schiffman, and Ray D. McKenzie of the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

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Contact Info

Contact: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England's leading legal organization devoted to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression. www.GLAD.org

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