Gay HIV positive man takes Condoleezza Rice to court

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A gay rights organisation this week initiated a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on behalf of a man who was allegedly denied employment as a Foreign Service Officer by the U.S. State Department because he is HIV positive.

“Lorenzo Taylor is being denied the job of his dreams, after years of preparing for it, based on a 20-year-old policy that bans every person with HIV, regardless of over-all health,” HIV Project Director of Lambda Legal Jonathan Givner said in a statement Monday. “Given his long history of excellent health, this makes no sense. The federal government needs a reality check.”

According to Lambda Legal, the gay rights organization that took on the case, Taylor is fluent in three languages, holds a Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University and easily passed the rigorous application process required to be a Foreign Service Officer.

Lambda Legal’s lawsuit, filed in late 2002, says the State Department’s policy violates the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people with disabilities. The lawsuit seeks a change in the outdated policy.

The case names Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The State Department is under her jurisdiction.

This spring, federal district court Judge Rosemary Collyer issued an opinion in favour of the State Department saying that the government should not have to accommodate Taylor by letting him use some of his sick and vacation leave, available to all Foreign Service Officers, to travel to see his doctor.

Lambda Legal’s appeal argues that the Rehabilitation Act was designed to require employers to make reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis as long as the employee can fulfil the responsibilities of the job, which Taylor can.

Currently, if Foreign Service Officers are diagnosed with HIV while on the job, reasonable accommodations are made for those employees. According to Lambda Legal, there is no evidence to suggest that this has caused any difficulties for the State Department.

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