Earlier this year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of Matt Woods, a Seattle lawyer and longtime Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (the Mission) volunteer who was told by Mission leadership not to apply for an attorney position in the organization’s legal aid program because his sexual orientation was a violation of their hiring policy. Matt identifies as bisexual and Christian and considered the attorney position his dream job.
The court made it clear that Matt and all Washingtonians have a constitutional right to their sexual orientation and religious employers do not have an unfettered right to discriminate under the exemption they are granted in Washington’s antidiscrimination law.
Regrettably, in August, the Mission asked the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to overturn the decision. Representing the Union Gospel Mission is the Alliance Defending Freedom, a national anti-LGBTQ+ organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a designated extremist hate group.
Today, Legal Voice partnered with Denise Diskin of QLaw Foundation and Sara Amies of Seattle Employment Law Partners and filed our reply to the Mission and ADF at the United States Supreme Court. We told the high court that the Washington Supreme Court’s decision was soundly reasoned and not worthy of SCOTUS review on multiple grounds. SCOTUS will now decide whether to hear the case and we expect them to make their decision by the end of the year.
Legal Voice’s commitment to this lawsuit reflects the urgency of challenging religious exemptions and other justifications that would open the door to unconstrained discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, targeting their dignity while ignoring their humanity and intersectional identities. LGBTQ+ people exist in all workplaces, faith communities, and economic groups.
And on a broader level, we are involved in this case because it represents a key advancement on the road to stronger LGBTQ+ rights. Last summer, SCOTUS made clear that employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, and transgender people violates federal law. Matt’s case is on the same path and reinforces that critical legal development.
We are in solidarity with Matt, and with all LGBTQ+ folks across the faith community, who simply want to live, work, worship, and be in community free from discrimination. We will continue to fight to ensure that everyone can live their identities unapologetically.
Your support allows us to continue the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Washington and across the Northwest. Together we can dismantle systems of oppression and continue the collective journey toward liberation.