Gospel Mission anti-LGBTQ hiring policy suit to be reviewed

More than two years after a King County Superior Court judge tossed out a bisexual lawyer’s lawsuit against Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission over its anti-LGBTQ hiring policy, the Washington Supreme Court has reversed the ruling and ordered the case back to the lower court.

Attorney Matt Woods in 2017 sued the mission, one of the largest homeless shelter and service organizations in the area, when the nonprofit refused to hire him to its free legal aid clinic after he disclosed his same-sex relationship, The Seattle Times reported.

King County Superior Court Judge Karen Donohue dismissed Woods’ lawsuit, saying that, as a religious nonprofit employer, the mission is exempt from the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The high court’s ruling doesn’t strike down the religious employer exemption, but questions whether that exemption applies to a staff attorney at a legal aid clinic — a decision that could potentially open the door to more LGBTQ staffers working in social services at religious nonprofits.

Woods said he was relieved following the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday.

"To get the affirmation from the court that religious organizations don’t have a right to blanket discriminate against LGBTQ people for who they are no matter what the job is a big relief," Woods said. "Especially for members of my community that are so much more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace because of their race or gender identity."

The mission did not immediately provide a comment on the ruling.