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Woman alleges harassment, sues Family Research Council

Claims anti-gay group fired her for filing bias complaint



Family Research Council, FRC, gay news, Washington Blade
Family Research Council, FRC, gay news, Washington Blade

A former employee claims the D.C.-based Family Research Council retaliated against her for objecting to harassment. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a little noticed development, a former high-level official with the anti-gay Family Research Council has accused the group in a lawsuit of firing her in retaliation for complaining that her supervisor subjected her to sexual harassment.

News of the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in July 2011, was first reported last week by conservative journalist and commentator Evan Gahr in his blog

Moira Gaul, who at the time of her dismissal served as the FRC’s Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health, charges in the lawsuit that the retaliation began in January 2009 after she filed a gender discrimination complaint before the D.C. Office of Human Rights against the supervisor.

The complaint says the supervisor, who is identified only as the director of FRC’s Center for Human Life and Bioethics, engaged in “inappropriate behavior” toward Gaul since he became her supervisor in March 2007.

“Examples of his behavior include, but are not limited to pressuring me to attend parties, referring to me as a ‘young, attractive woman,’ and emailing me ‘hi cutie,’” Gaul states in the OHR complaint.

“He also referred to the use of birth control pills by young women as ‘whoring around.’ His attitude toward me and other women was rude, belittling, and at times angry,” she said in the OHR complaint.

William J. Hickey, the lead attorney representing FRC in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request by the Washington Blade for comment. The FRC’s vice president for communications, J.P. Duffy, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Gaul’s attorney, Shannon L. Stokes, said neither she nor Gaul would comment on the case at the present time.

In a Sept. 2, 2011 court brief or “answer” to the lawsuit on FRC’s behalf, Hickey said FRC denies Gaul’s allegations that it engaged in discrimination or retaliation against her.

Hickey’s brief also says the lawsuit “fails to state a cause of action against defendant and should be dismissed.”

In a November motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the case, Hickey argues that Gaul dropped her gender discrimination case before the Office of Human Rights after a settlement was reached several months after she filed the complaint. He asserts in the motion that she and her attorneys could not raise allegations made in that complaint if her lawsuit goes to trial.

Although the attorneys on both sides have so far refused to discuss the matter with the media, Hickey appears to be referring to a decision by U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates granting an FRC motion for a “protective order” that places a “seal” on information and evidence related to Gaul’s OHR complaint about gender discrimination and allegations of sexual harassment by her supervisor.

Gahr, who broke the story on the lawsuit, reported that multiple media reports show that prominent anti-abortion attorney William L. “Bill” Saunders served as director of FRC’s Center for Human Life and Bioethics during the period Gaul alleges she was subject to sexual harassment.

Her OHR complaint says it was the director of that FRC center that allegedly committed the gender discrimination linked to the alleged sexual harassment against her.

Several papers authored or co-authored by Saunders on the right-to-life movement and efforts to overturn the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions in the country, are currently posted on the FRC’s website with the FRC logo printed above the title of the papers.

The FRC’s website, however, makes no mention of Saunders having worked for the organization.

A May 22, 2009 press release from Americans United for Life, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-abortion groups, announced that Saunders joined the group’s staff at that time as senior counsel. The AUL website currently shows that Saunders still holds that position.

A spokesperson for the AUL didn’t return a call from the Blade seeking comment on Gaul’s lawsuit and earlier complaint before the D.C. Office of Human Rights involving Saunders.

Saunders couldn’t be reached for comment.

A mediation process required by the court to determine whether Gaul’s lawsuit could be settled took place earlier this year, according to court records. But the filing of motions by both sides earlier this month seeking a summary judgment ruling in their favor indicates the mediation process has so far been unsuccessful.

Gaul’s lawsuit, which was filed July 7, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says Gaul continued to perform her job duties in what it calls a “hostile work environment” from the time her supervisor allegedly began hassling her in March 2007 through 2009, when she decided it was necessary to file the OHR complaint.

The lawsuit says stress created by her interaction with her supervisor aggravated her pre-existing chronic health problems, which FRC knew about at the time it hired her in 2005. The lawsuit says that prior to her filing the OHR complaint, FRC accommodated her special health needs, allowing her to take time off from work to seek medical treatment.

A flare up of one of her health problems required that she take a short-term disability leave from January 2009 to March 2009, according to the lawsuit.

Although FRC officials initially told her that her health insurance coverage would continue during her disability leave, she was informed in March 2009 that “FRC was retroactively cancelling her health insurance for the period she was on short-term disability leave,” the lawsuit says.

In February 2009, one month after she filed her complaint, FRC’s then executive vice president issued Gaul a formal reprimand for “insubordination” during the time she was on disability leave. It was the first time she had ever received a reprimand during her tenure with FRC, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the retaliation against her continued upon her return to work when FRC personnel officials delayed the reinstatement of her health insurance. Due to her health problems, she contacted various staffers and managers to request a prompt reinstatement of her insurance.

“Rather than assist her, the FRC’s then executive vice president threatened to issue another reprimand for insubordination to Ms. Gaul if she attempted to raise the issue of her health insurance coverage again with FRC management or any other staff member in the D.C. office other than human resources,” the lawsuit charges.

In May 2009, according to the lawsuit, Gaul was formally reprimanded for “failing to submit time sheets on schedule.” It says Gaul is unaware of any FRC employee receiving a reprimand for submitting late time sheets.

Gaul was hopeful that the alleged retaliation would end when she reached a settlement with FRC over her OHR complaint on July 31, 2009, the lawsuit says.

But the lawsuit says her work environment “remained hostile” after the settlement over the next three months leading up to her dismissal on Oct. 22, 2009, which FRC called a “layoff,” the lawsuit says.

“Upon information and belief, other employees laid off in 2009 were given more than a month’s notice of their impending layoff,” it says. “Ms. Gaul, on the other hand, was told to clear her belongings by the close of business the next day.”

The lawsuit says a termination memorandum given to her by the FRC cited “political hostility” against the abstinence movement, on which Gaul devoted much of her work, and a reduction of federal funding for abstinence programs as the primary reason for her termination.

“The memorandum also stated that the FRC needed a person with a background in a variety of ‘life issue’ areas beyond abstinence, which the memorandum claimed that Ms. Gaul did not have,” the lawsuit says

“The reasons cited by the FRC in the termination memorandum were mere pretexts,” the lawsuit charges.

It says Gaul, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in public health, worked on a wide range of other issues and was highly qualified to continue as FRC’s women’s and reproductive health director.

“In January 2010 three months after Ms. Gaul’s termination, the FRC created a new position with duties similar to the ones previously held by Ms. Gaul,” the lawsuit says. “This new position was fully funded by the FRC budget.”

The lawsuit says up until the time of her dismissal, Gaul remained dedicated to carrying out FRC’s mission in the area of women’s health.

“Despite all of the problems in her work environment, Ms. Gaul continued to produce at a high level,” it says. “In August 2009, she was rated in the second highest quartile for contribution in the policy department. Ms. Gaul was promoted to the position of Fellow and Director of Women’s and Reproductive health that same month.”

The lawsuit adds, “In September 2009, the FRC released a report on Pregnancy Resource Centers co-authored by Ms. Gaul, which she then presented at a national conference. In October 2009, Ms. Gaul presented the Pregnancy Resources Center report and taught at an international pro-life conference in Hungary.”

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased”



Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE – A Republican majority Florida House Education & Employment Committee passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the Press Secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at, or by texting START to 678678. 

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her



Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”



Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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