In 1998 Alicia Pedreira was fired from her job
as a Family Specialist at Spring Meadows Children's Home by Kentuky Baptist Home for Children (KBHC) after discovering that she was lesbian. KBHC said that her dismissal was "because her admitted homosexual lifestyle is contrary to Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children core values." Pedreira then sued KBHC, alleging discrimination based on religion. The case was dismissed by the Court. The decision was appealed by Pedreira, and subsequently heard before Judge Julia Smith Gibbons of the 6th
Circuit Court of Appeals. On 31 August Judge Gibbons affirmed [.pdf
] the decision of the District Court.
(Further references to this Opinon shall be as "Pedreira
, page X")
Did Judge Gibbons rule corectly? Was the dismissal of Pedreira really a case of religious discrimination? After all, it was because of KBHC's assertion that Pedreira's homosexuality was contrary to the core values of the organisation, and one may presume that such core values are informed and derived from their religious beliefs. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act
(KRCA), under which Pedreira sought relief, prohibits employment discriminaiton based on religion.
In her Opinion, Judge Gibbons states that Pedreira had no standing to seek relief under KCRA. Though "Courts have interpreted the prohibition to preclude employers from discriminating against an employee because of the employee’s religion as well as because the employee fails to comply with the employer’s religion" (Pedreira
, page 7), and Pedreira argued that "living openly as a lesbian constitutes not complying with her employer’s religion... [and] that she was terminated because she does not hold KBHC’s religious belief that homosexuality is sinful" (Pedreira
, page 7), Pedreira had not actually shown that her dismissal was because of relgion. As Judge Gibbons further writes
It is undisputed that KBHC fired Pedreira on account of her sexuality. However, Pedreira has not explained how this constitutes discrimination based on religion. Pedreira has not alleged any particulars about her religion that would even allow an inference that she was discriminated against on account of her religion, or more particularly, her religious differences with KBHC. “To show that the termination was based on her religion, [the plaintiff] must show that it was the religious aspect of her [conduct] that motivated her employer’s actions.” Furthermore, Pedreira does not allege that her sexual orientation is premised on her religious beliefs or lack thereof, nor does she state whether she accepts or rejects Baptist beliefs. While there may be factual situations in which an employer equates an employee’s sexuality with her religious beliefs or lack thereof, in this case, Pedreira has “failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted”
, page 8).
I am certainly against discrimination based on race or ethnicity, skin colour, religion (or lack thereof), sex or gender identity, sexuality, or national origin. The action taken by KBHC - dismissing Pedreira because of her sexuality - is one that ought be condemned. However, in this particuar case, and reading Judge Gibbons Opinion only as a layman with no legal training, I do agree with the decsion Judge Gibbons made.
In Australia, as in the United States, there is no specific prohibition at law of discrimination based on sexuality. However, one may logde a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission
alleging discrimination based on sexuality. Such a right exists
because of various international Covenants Australia is party to. Though these Covenants do not specifically deal with discriminaiton based on sexuality, Australia has taken the position that the Human Rights protected under these conventions has the effect of protecting an individual from discrimination based on sexuality.
I am glad that such protection exists in Australia, though I prefer that such protection be established by an Act of Parliament rather than being based an opinon of International Law.
via Atheist News
crossposted at Holocene Hominoid