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Fired gay employee sues Library of Congress

Lawsuit says boss cited anti-gay biblical passages before terminating staffer



Peter TerVeer, gay news, gay politics dc

Peter TerVeer (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gay man has charged in a lawsuit filed on Friday that he was fired in April from his job at the Library of Congress after being harassed and humiliated for more than a year by a supervisor who repeatedly quoted biblical passages condemning homosexuality.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges that management analyst Peter TerVeer, 30, suffered employment discrimination based on his gender, gender stereotyping and his religious beliefs in violation of Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit charges that his supervisor John Mech and library official Nicholas Christopher, Mech’s immediate supervisor, further violated Title VII by retaliating against TerVeer when he attempted to challenge their actions in an internal library complaint.

“Mech imposed his sex stereotypes and fundamentalist religious beliefs on homosexuality upon the plaintiff, resulting in a hostile working environment,” the lawsuit alleges.

In addition, the suit charges the library with violating TerVeer’s Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection; violating an internal Library of Congress policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and religious beliefs; and violating the Library of Congress Act, a federal law that calls for the library to consider decisions related to employees “solely” on an employee’s “fitness” for his or her job duties.

Library of Congress spokesperson Gale Osterberg said the library has no immediate comment on the lawsuit. She said the library’s official response would come in the form of a legal brief filed in court that addresses each of the allegations made in the lawsuit. Under court rules, the Library of Congress has 60 days to file its response from the time TerVeer’s attorneys serve the library with an official copy of the lawsuit.

In April, when TerVeer and his attorney disclosed that TerVeer had filed a complaint against Mech and other officials with the library’s Equal Employment Opportunity office, which adjudicates employment discrimination cases, Osterberg said TerVeer’s case was a personnel matter and the library never comments on personnel matters pertaining to an individual employee.

She told the Blade at that time that under library rules, neither Mach, an accountant and lead auditor for the library’s Office of the Inspector General, where TerVeer worked, nor any other library employee familiar with TerVeer’s case, would be permitted to comment on the case.

When asked about a Library of Congress internal policy adopted in the 1990s that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, Osterberg said only that, “We adhere to Title VII, period.”

She was referring to the provision in the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, and other criteria but not on sexual orientation.

Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. office, said TerVeer’s lawsuit’s claim that Mech and other Library of Congress officials violated Title VII by discriminating against TerVeer based on his sex and religious beliefs could make him eligible for relief under Title VII.

Spitzer noted that a U.S. District Court judge in D.C. ruled in 2008 that the Library of Congress illegally discriminated against a transgender woman on grounds of sex discrimination. Spitzer’s ACLU office represented the transgender woman, Diane Schroer, in the case along with the ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project.

The ACLU called the judge’s action “a groundbreaking decision that found that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law.”

Spitzer said TerVeer’s case could potentially result in expanding the scope of Title VII, the federal civil rights statute, to cover gay people if the court issues a favorable decision on TerVeer’s lawsuit.

But Spitzer noted that unless the case is appealed by the library and an appeals court upholds the lower court decision, the favorable ruling would only apply to TerVeer.

Schroer was a retired and highly decorated Army colonel assigned to the Army Airborne Rangers before she applied for a Library of Congress job as a terrorism research analyst. The library hired her before reversing its decision and turning her down for the job when it learned she was transitioning from a man to a woman.

In its ruling against the library, the court ordered the library to pay Schroer nearly $500,000 in compensation for the discrimination it found the library to have committed. Schroer chose not to take the job there.

TerVeer is being represented for his lawsuit by attorneys Christopher Brown and Glen Ackerman of Ackerman Brown, PLLC; and Thomas Simeone of Simeone & Miller. (Ackerman Brown, PLLC also represents the Washington Blade in legal matters.)

The lawsuit says that when TerVeer began his job in February 2008 as a management auditor in the auditing division of the Library of Congress Office of the Inspector General, his work was well received and he soon received promotions.

The lawsuit says Mech and TerVeer had a cordial, professional relationship until Mach discovered TerVeer was gay in August 2009.

“Mech facilitated an introduction to his single daughter, Katie Mech, and the two became ‘friends’ on the social networking website Facebook in January 2009,” the lawsuit says.

It says that in August 2009 TerVeer missed noticing that Facebook changed its privacy settings, enabling Facebook friends to see certain postings on his site that previously could not be seen by people other than those he allowed to see them. One of the postings was a page linked to a group that supports gay fathers and advocates for ending discrimination against gay parents.

When Katie Mech apparently saw the “gay” link on TerVeer’s Facebook page she wrote him a message saying, “Don’t tell me you’re weird like that,” the lawsuit says. It says TerVeer responded offline by confirming that he was gay but noting that he was not “weird,” the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, from that time going forward John Mach dramatically changed his attitude toward TerVeer in a negative way, leading TerVeer to believe Katie Mach told her father he was gay.

“Now, at the beginning of almost every work-related conversation, Mech would engage in a religious lecture to the point where it became clear that Mech was targeting TerVeer by imposing his conservative Catholic beliefs on TerVeer throughout the workday,” the lawsuit says. “TerVeer proclaims a Christian faith, but one that is accepting of his sexual orientation,” says the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that on June 21, 2010 Mech called TerVeer into an unscheduled meeting and delivered a stern lecture to “educate” TerVeer on “hell” and the sin of homosexuality.

Mech began reciting Bible verses to TerVeer, the lawsuit says, telling him, “I hope you repent because the Bible is very clear about what God does to homosexuals.” The lawsuit says Mech went on to quote the biblical passage of Leviticus that says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman…they must be put to death.”

TerVeer charges in the lawsuit that Mech, with help from Mech’s supervisor, Nicholas Christopher, “continued to manufacture a negative paper trail” to downgrade TerVeer’s work performance ratings. The lawsuit says this was an effort to justify Mech’s alleged goal of orchestrating TerVeer’s termination from his job.

“TerVeer was subjected to a hostile work environment and continued harassment from Mech based upon religious affiliation, sex stereotyping, and sexual orientation,” the lawsuit says. Christopher, Mech, and other supervisors failed to inform TerVeer of his right to file a discrimination claim and retaliated against TerVeer because he sought to and ultimately did file a discrimination claim, the suit says.

“The work environment became too hostile for TerVeer to continue working under Mech or Christopher’s supervision, and his requests for transfer were denied,” the lawsuit says. “TerVeer was constructively terminated on April 6, 2012 because he was unable to return to a workplace where he had to confront constant discriminatory treatment from Mech and Christopher.”

The suit calls for injunctive relief, including reinstatement and an “order restraining defendant from engaging in further discriminatory conduct…”

It calls for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, including for emotional distress, and reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and other court related costs. The suit doesn’t seek a specific dollar amount for damages and compensation and other costs, saying the amounts would be determined at trial.



Federal judge halts enforcement of Fla. trans healthcare ban

Advocacy groups challenged Senate Bill 254



A federal judge has halted enforcement of a Florida law that bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In his 44 page ruling, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida has barred the state from any further enforcement action against transgender youth or their parents from seeking appropriate gender-affirming care.

Hinkle’s ruling allows Florida parents challenging the ban to access necessary medical care for their trans children while the legal challenge to the bans continues. The ruling blocks enforcement of Florida state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine rules banning established medical care for trans adolescents as well as provisions in Senate Bill 254 that codify those rules into state law with added criminal and civil penalties.

In his summary Hinkle wrote: “Gender identity is real. Those whose gender identity does not match their natal sex often suffer gender dysphoria. The widely accepted standard of care calls for evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team. Proper treatment begins with mental health therapy and is followed in appropriate cases by GnRH agonists and cross-sex hormones. Florida has adopted a statute and rules that prohibit these treatments even when medically appropriate.”

In today’s ruling the court indicated that the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that SB 254 and the Boards of Medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of trans youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

The challenge to the Boards of Medicine and SB 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial.

The families are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign, which issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children. The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive. We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned.”

Read the ruling:

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Events roundup: Federal gov’t celebrates Pride month

Bidens to host White House Pride reception on Thursday



U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Photo courtesy DHS)

The White House, U.S. federal agencies, and Congress are honoring Pride month with a slate of official and unofficial events this year, many taking place this week.

Details for some events have not yet been announced, so this article will be updated when new information becomes available – such as details about the U.S. State Department’s Pride reception, which is expected to happen later this month.

  • The U.S. Department of the Interior kicked off Pride month with a celebration on June 1, where DoI Secretary Deb Haaland raised the Progress Pride Flag alongside members of Interior’s LGBTQ community.
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs hosted a flag raising ceremony on June 1 at the John A. Wilson Building. The Mayor’s Office is also sponsoring a District of Pride Showcase at the Lincoln Theatre on June 29.
  • On June 2, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security held a flag raising ceremony at the agency’s headquarters with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
  • Speaker Emerita U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will throw out the ceremonial first pitch during the Washington Nationals Night OUT game on Tuesday, Major League Baseball’s longest-running annual Pride event. The Speaker will be honored this year for her advancement of LGBTQ civil rights throughout her career in Congress.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense’s DoD Pride, an LGBTQ employee resource group for service members and DoD civilian employees, will hold its annual Pride month event on June 7 at the Pentagon.
  • President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are hosting a Pride month celebration on the South Lawn of the White House on June 8, which will feature a performance by singer-songwriter Betty Who.
  • The LGBTQ Victory Fund’s June 22 Federal PAC Reception will feature LGBTQ members of Congress: U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Robert Garcia (D-Calf.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).
  • On June 28, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are hosting a reception in celebration of Pride at the Vice President’s residence, in collaboration with GLAAD.
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Same-sex marriage support remains strong at 71 percent high

Supreme Court issued Obergefell ruling in 2015



A Gallup Poll released Monday showed that support for same-sex marriage is maintaining a position of 71 percent of Americans who think it should be legal, matching the previous year’s percentage.

Gallup noted that public support for legally recognizing gay marriages has been consistently above 50 percent since the early 2010s.

The latest figures are from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-24.

When Gallup first polled about same-sex marriage in 1996, barely a quarter of the public (27 percent) supported legalizing such unions. It would take another 15 years, until 2011, for support to reach the majority level. Then in 2015, just one month before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, public support for legalizing gay marriage cracked the 60 percent level. In 2021, it reached the 70 percent mark for the first time and has been there each of the past three years.

Support Relatively Low Among Republicans, Weekly Churchgoers

Gallup has recorded increases in support for same-sex marriage across all major subgroups over time. Today, majorities of all but two key subgroups — Republicans (49 percent) and weekly churchgoers (41 percent) — say gay marriages should be legally recognized.

Republican support for gay marriage has hovered around the 50 percent mark since 2020, with slight majorities backing it in 2021 and 2022. The latest 49 percent recorded for this group is statistically similar to the level of support Gallup has recorded in recent years.

Like all other subgroups, weekly churchgoers (41 percent) are more supportive of gay marriage now than they were in the previous two decades. However, their level of support has been steady since 2018 — ranging between 40 percent and 44 percent.

Bottom line

Same-sex marriage has received majority support in the U.S. for over a decade, and support has been on an upward trajectory for most of Gallup’s polling since 1996.

Gay marriage became the law of the land after the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, and President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation to ward off future judicial attempts at undoing its legality late last year.

Among many groups — including older adults, Protestants and residents of the South — perspectives on gay marriage have gone from majority opposition to majority support over the course of Gallup’s trend spanning more than a quarter of a century. But two groups remain holdouts on the issue, with Republicans evenly divided on the legality of same-sex unions and weekly churchgoers maintaining their position against it.

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