Lesbian firefighter in Los Angeles gets $6.2 million settlement
LOS ANGELES A jury awarded $6.2 million to a firefighter who said she was harassed by colleagues because she is black and a lesbian. The harassment included someone mixing urine with her mouthwash, she said.
Brenda Lee’s lawsuit against the Los Angeles Fire Department also claimed her superiors made derogatory comments about her and forced her to perform strenuous exercises without proper safety precautions because of her race and sexual orientation.
Tuesday’s jury payout was the largest in a string of recent settlements of cases alleging discrimination and retaliation against women and minorities within the Fire Department.
Judge Michael L. Stern ordered the panel back to court Thursday for a second phase of the trial involving possible punitive damages against Lee’s former supervisor, Capt. Christopher Hare.
Rob Kitson, Lee’s attorney, declined to comment on the case because it was ongoing.
A spokesman for the city attorney’s office, Jonathan Diamond, said the city would “review its options going forward.”
Two other firefighters in the discrimination lawsuit already have won jury awards after their cases were tried separately.
In April, a jury awarded $1.7 million to Lewis Bressler, who claimed he was forced to retire for backing Lee in her claims of discrimination. Gary Mellinger, who alleged the department retaliated against him after he helped Lee, settled with the city for $350,000 after a jury found in his favor.
Bouncer kicks woman out of bathroom due to masculine looks
NEW YORK A bouncer at a popular restaurant in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood ejected a lesbian customer from the women’s bathroom after last month’s gay pride march because she looked too masculine, the woman said Monday.
Khadijah Farmer, 27, said the incident occurred June 24 at the Caliente Cab Company restaurant, where she had gone with her girlfriend and another friend to have dinner after the march.
Farmer said she was using the women’s bathroom when a male bouncer burst in and banged on the stall door, saying a customer had complained that there was a man in the women’s room.
“I said, “‘I am a woman and I am where I am supposed to be,”’ said Farmer, speaking at a a news conference. “I offered to show him some identification. I was told that’s neither here nor there.”
Caliente Cab Company, a Mexican restaurant known for its enormous margaritas and Checker-cab decor, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Farmer said the bouncer escorted her to her table and forced her party to pay their check and leave. “I felt embarrassed and humiliated,” said Farmer, a Manhattan resident who works as a counselor at a residential program for people with disabilities. “I’m just hurt that even my wanting to prove that I’m female wasn’t enough.”
Farmer is being represented by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is demanding that the restaurant train its staff not to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression.
Jesuit researcher says some homosexual acts morally acceptable
OMAHA, Nebraska A Jesuit university researcher whose relationship with the Omaha Archdiocese was severed after he urged the Roman Catholic church to allow engaged couples to have sex has also said that some homosexual acts are morally acceptable.
The Omaha Archdiocese severed ties with Creighton University’s Center for Marriage and Family after an essay by researchers Michael Lawler and Gail Risch appeared in the June issue of U.S. Catholic magazine.
Lawler also co-wrote an article in 2006 for the academic Heythrop Journal, proposing that under Catholic guidelines, “homosexual couples can engage in sexual acts that are natural, reasonable and therefore moral.”
That article was not a project of the university’s family center, and did not elicit a public outcry from church leaders when it was written.
When asked Friday about the article, the Rev. Joseph Taphorn, the archdiocese’s chancellor, said “the conversations that took place were done more quietly.” Lawler’s 2006 article arguing for the morality of homosexual sex “is just very simply not in keeping with our tradition and our teaching,” Taphorn said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 6, 2007.