After Five Year Lambda Legal Lawsuit, Foreign Service Drops Blanket Ban on Hiring People Living With HIV
(New York, February 15, 2008) — New State Department guidelines lift the agency's blanket ban under which candidates who have HIV were barred from becoming Foreign Service Officers.
"We are extremely pleased with this change," said Bebe J. Anderson, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. "The new guidelines mean that candidates for Foreign Service posts who have HIV will now be assessed on a case-by-case basis, as the law requires. At long last, the State Department is taking down its sign that read 'People with HIV need not apply.'"
The new guidelines come less than two weeks before a trial scheduled in the HIV discrimination case Taylor v. Rice, which sought to overturn the State Department's blanket HIV hiring ban. Lambda Legal represents Lorenzo Taylor, who was denied employment by the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer after disclosing his HIV status.
Taylor, who speaks three languages and holds a degree from Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, received a conditional offer of employment after passing the rigorous application process required to be a Foreign Service Officer. In 2002, that offer was retracted because he has HIV. Knowing that others had been rejected for the same reason, Taylor decided to fight this discriminatory treatment, and has been fighting for an end to the HIV hiring ban ever since. In 2003, he filed suit against the State Department in federal district court in Washington, D.C. After the district court judge ruled in favor of the State Department in 2005, he appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of that appellate court ruled that some of the State Department's justifications for its treatment of applicants living with HIV were "suspect" and that the matter should be resolved by a trial. Partly due to the new guidelines, the parties have settled the lawsuit.
Lorenzo Taylor said, "I wanted to serve my country as a Foreign Service Officer, but was told, 'Sorry we don't need your kind.' Now people like me who apply to the Foreign Service will not have to go through what I did. They and others with HIV will know that they do not have to surrender to stigma, ignorance, fear, or the efforts of anyone, even the federal government, to impose second-class citizenship on them. They can fight back."
Bebe J. Anderson, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal is lead counsel on this case along with Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal and Scott Schoettes HIV Project Staff Attorney. They are joined by co-counsel Elizabeth Leise, Jennifer Risen, and Joseph Kakesh of Arnold & Porter, LLP in Washington, DC.
The case is Taylor v. Rice, No. 1:03cv1832 (RMC) (D.D.C.).
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