Thursday, February 28, 2013

Transgender Woman Files Suit Against California Baptist University For Expulsion

An update on a previous post: A transgender woman is suing California Baptist University in Riverside for allegedly expelling her because of her gender identity. Domaine Javier, 25, was expelled in August 2011 after she revealed in an episode of MTV’s True Life that she is biologically male. “CBU suspended her, excluded her from campus, and expelled her for one reason: she is transgender,” the lawsuit said. The Press-Enterprise reports that the suit, filed Monday, February 25, in Riverside County Superior Court, accuses Cal Baptist of violations of state anti-discrimination laws and breach of contract. It asks for $500,000 in damages. Theodore Stream, an attorney for Cal Baptist, said he had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment. University documents attached to the lawsuit say that Javier was expelled because of “fraud, or concealing identity.” Javier said a Cal Baptist official told her she inaccurately stated on her university application that she is a female. In an October 2011 interview with the Press-Enterprise, Javier said she has identified as female since she was a toddler. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” Javier said. “They said, ‘On your application form you put female.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s how I see myself.’” Javier was not available for comment Tuesday. Paul Southwick, Javier’s Portland, Oregon, attorney, said the university maligned Javier’s name. “They’ve falsely accused her of fraud and of concealing her identity,” he said. “She was humiliated and forced to delay her education and career.” Javier had enrolled in Cal Baptist’s nursing program and had been awarded a $3,500 academic scholarship, in addition to a $2,000 music scholarship, the suit states. After her expulsion, Javier worked a fast-food job until she enrolled in Riverside City College’s nursing program this month, Southwick said. Javier said in the 2011 interview that Cal Baptist officials told her they discovered her appearance on an MTV “True Life” episode titled, “I’m Passing as Someone I’m Not” while conducting a background check on her. They did not say whether that is how they discovered her gender identity, she said. The discrimination claim is based on the state Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based upon gender identity. But Jim Wood, a senior pro bono counsel for the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, said the law generally does not cover private universities. Southwick argued that Cal Baptist, which is open to people of all faiths and primarily offers degrees in secular fields, functions as a business establishment offering services to the general public, which means it is covered under the law. “We’re not talking about a private seminary or Bible college,” he said. “Just because Cal Baptist is a religiously affiliated institution doesn’t give it a right to discriminate.”

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