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Lesbian Magistrate Accuses Former Boss of Firing Her for Political Gain in Discrimination Case

A lesbian magistrate in Chattanooga, Tenn. who sued her supervisors for anti-gay discrimination had her day in court Monday.

Elizabeth Gentzler’s attorney told the court that her boss Judge Rob Philyaw demoted then fired her for being openly gay because he didn’t think it would play well with Republican voters in his re-election bid, according to the Times Free Press.

In court documents, Gentzler accuses Philyaw and Court Administrator Sam Mairs of belittling and shouting at her. Philyaw regularly excluded and ignored Gentlzler, the complaint states.

“This would include inviting other employees to events but not her, carpooling to and from events with court employees but not inviting her, having routine personal meetings with each employee except her, soliciting ideas for running the court from employees but ignoring Mrs. Gentzler’s ideas and advice, and deliberately avoiding Mrs. Gentzler when she would attempt to meet or speak with him,” it reads.

Mairs and Philyaw transferred Gentzler to Child Support,another court division, the complaint states.

“The transfer placed Mrs. Gentzler in a lower stature within the court and provided fewer fringe benefits,” itreads. “Judge Philyaw essentially turned Child Support in to a female ghetto, with all male magistrates at the main building and all female magistrates at Child Support.”

Mairs allegedly made anti-gay jokes about Gentlzer, and a coworker told her she had been transferred because of her sexual orientation.

Gentzler claims that attempts to report the harassment ultimately led to her dismissal in August 2014.

The Times Free Press reports that Gentzler’s attorney, Stuart James told the court Monday that Gentzler never had negative write ups from her former boss, Juvenile Court Judge Suzanne Bailey. But a complaint of harassment against Philyaw set off concerns among her superiors that she “robe fever or haughtiness.”

James argued that Philyaw was also up for re-election in a Republican county in 2014, before same-sex marriage became legal, and that he didn’t want to have an out lesbian at events.

Philyaw did not respond to a request to comment. A spokesperson for Mairs said he could comment on the ongoing case.

Gentzler is seeking $500,000 in damages plus attorney’s fees.

Gentzler’s day in court comes at a time when LGBTQ workplace discrimination complaints are winning across the country, despite a stunning rollback of LGBTQ protections under the Trump administration.

Last month, the Second Circuit Court ruled in favor of gay skydiver Donald Zarda, affirming that sexual orientation was protected under the the Civil Rights Act. In January, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $700,000 jury award award for lesbian firefighter Lori Franchina who alleged extreme anti-gay harassment at work. Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of Aimee Stephens, who alleged anti-trans discrimination against a funeral home in Michigan.


Kate Sosin 

Kate Sosin is a trans news and features reporter and former associate editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times.

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