School Sues South Euclid Over Anti-Discrimination Law

Apr 3, 2019

A conservative Christian organization is filing a lawsuit against an Ohio city for its laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The group says it threatens the freedoms of a Catholic college prep school. 

The Lyceum, a Catholic college preparatory school, is suing the city of South Euclid for its laws protecting LGBTQ people. 

Christiana Holcomb with the Alliance Defending Freedom represents The Lyceum. She said the law threatens some of the school’s core beliefs. The school says marriage is between a man and a woman and that people were created to be male or female.

“These are religious beliefs that the school holds. These are religious beliefs that are protected under the First Amendment. And these are religious beliefs that the city of South Euclid has essentially said ‘you must give them up or be banished from operating within our city,'" Holcomb said.

South Euclid added the new provisions to its non-discrimination laws last year. The city’s community services director Keith Benjamin said South Euclid’s population is diverse and they wanted to create protections that looked out for all its citizens.

Benjamin also pointed out that there are religious exceptions in the ordinance and he notes that education institutions are also exempt.

“So The Lyceum school is free to hire, to teach, teach its students in a manner that they see best and meets the vision and their goals of their school in any way that they wish," Benjamin said.

Grant Stancliff is with Equality Ohio, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group. He said these local laws are vital in protecting people from being fired, evicted, or denied public accommodations based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity. And Stancliff pointed out that no one has accused the school of breaking the city’s ordinance.

“As of right now, The Lyceum hasn’t run afoul of any of these laws so they’ve been able to operate under this ordinance, presumably making hiring and firing decisions without experiencing any reason for somebody to complain, then the law appears to be compatible with the day-to-day operations of The Lyceum," Stancliff said. 

Holcomb said the lawsuit is a pre-enforcement challenge to stop the government from enforcing a law they believe to be unconstitutional.

“And frankly no American must sit around and wait for their government to impose criminal penalties or wait for them to be thrown in jail before they challenge an unjust law," Holcomb said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom also represented Masterpiece Cakes, the bakery in Colorado accused of discriminating against a same-sex couple by refusing to provide a wedding cake. The U.S. Supreme Court found that Colorado’s civil rights commission acted hostile toward the baker but veered away from a more broad ruling.

That case was based on public accommodations, whereas The Lyceum’s would focus on hiring and admission policies.

More than 20 cities in Ohio have these types of anti-discrimination protections, and the state is considering a similar bill called the “Ohio Fairness Act.”