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Court set to hear
case charging Condoleeza Rice with HIV discrimination

Court set to hear
case charging Condoleeza Rice with HIV discrimination

Lambda Legal will argue that HIV-positive Foreign Service applicant faced discrimination.

Lambda Legal's HIV Project director, Jon Givner, will present oral arguments before the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday in a lawsuit on behalf of a man who was denied employment as a Foreign Service officer by the U.S. State Department because he is HIV-positive. The case is filed against Condoleezza Rice in her capacity as Secretary of State.

Lorenzo Taylor--who speaks three languages, holds a foreign service degree from Georgetown University, and easily passed the rigorous application process required to be a Foreign Service officer--was denied employment solely because he is HIV-positive. State Department rules state that because Foreign Service officers can be assigned to any country, including those with poor health care systems, HIV-positive applicants are denied positions.

Lambda Legal's original lawsuit, filed in late 2002, seeks a change in the outdated policy. Federal district court judge Rosemary Collyer in spring 2005 issued an opinion in favor 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--similar to the Americans With Disabilities Act but covering federal employees--requires employers to make reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis as long as the employee can fulfill the responsibilities of the job, which Taylor can. Currently, if Foreign Service officers are diagnosed with HIV infection while on the job, reasonable accommodations are made for those employees. There is no evidence to suggest that this has caused any difficulties for the State Department, Lambda argues, and as such there is no reason to prohibit the hiring of employees who are already HIV-positive.

Givner will present oral arguments in the case at 9:30 a.m. on April 27 at the U.S. court of appeals, located at 333 Constitution Ave. N.W. in Washington, D.C. (The Advocate)

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