U.S. Dept. of Justice Gay Employee Group Honors Lambda Legal Tomorrow at Event that Was Banned from Agency Headquarters

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June 19, 2003

(Washington, DC -- Thursday, June 19, 2003) Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund will receive an award tomorrow at an annual gay pride event held by U.S. Dept. of Justice employees -- capping two weeks of controversy over a policy change blocking the group from meeting at the agency’s headquarters even though other employee associations can continue holding similar events.

In early June, the Dept. of Justice notified its gay and lesbian employee group that, for the first time in several years, it would not be allowed to hold an annual pride ceremony in the Great Hall of Justice at the agency’s Washington, DC, headquarters. Instead, tomorrow’s event is at the U.S. Senate’s Russell Office Building. The group of about 200 Dept. of Justice employees will present Lambda Legal with an award for its historic U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law.

“The Justice Department’s discriminatory treatment of its own lesbian and gay employees is exactly the kind of government-sanctioned bigotry we’re trying to end with our Supreme Court case,” said Susan Sommer, supervising attorney at Lambda Legal, who will accept the award on behalf of the organization. “Whether it’s the State of Texas barging into a private home and arresting two men for having consensual sex or the Justice Department blocking gay employees from access enjoyed by every other employee group, the government has no business singling out gay people for second-class treatment.”

After coming under fire for refusing to host the annual event, the Dept. of Justice told the gay employee group that it could hold its ceremony in the Great Hall of Justice as it has for several years, but that the Dept. of Justice would not sponsor the event - which would force the group to pay to use the space, unlike every similar employee group. In a statement, the employee group’s Board of Directors said, “The Board has decided to decline the Department’s offer of second class citizenship. We will not pay a toll to access the Great Hall of Justice.”

Tomorrow’s event will take place at 12:30 p.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building in the Russell Caucus Room at 1st and C Streets, NE. Sommer will accept the Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award, which recognizes contributions to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in Lambda Legal’s case next week. Full details and background on the case are at: www.lambdalegal.org/MakingHistory

Contact: Lisa Hardaway, 212/809-8585 ext. 266; pgr: 888-987-1971


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