News Briefing Apr. 10-16, 2015

News Briefing Apr. 10-16, 2015

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DOJ may intervene in Blatt case

The U.S. Department of Justice has requested a 60-day deadline extension to decide whether it will intervene in the Kate Blatt case.

Blatt, a Pottsville trans woman, is suing Cabela’s Retail Inc. for job discrimination

Cabela’s is located in Hamburg and specializes in outdoor sports items. Blatt worked there as a seasonal stocker between September 2006 and March 2007.

She claims Cabela’s discriminated against her on the basis of her disability — gender dysphoria — by denying her access to a female restroom.

Part of Blatt’s federal lawsuit challenges the Americans with Disabilities Act’s exclusion of gender-identity disorder as a protected disability.

The ADA protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in private employment, public accommodations and governmental services.

Blatt contends that Congress acted unconstitutionally in 1989 when excluding GID as a protected disability under the ADA.

Last month, the DOJ asked U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Leeson Jr. for a deadline extension until May 22 to decide whether to intervene in the case.

As of presstime, Leeson hadn’t ruled on the request.

Nicole A. Navas, a DOJ spokesperson, had no comment for this report.

Gay inmate seeks assault records

Kenneth J. Houck Jr., an openly gay federal inmate who was brutally assaulted in Philadelphia, has been denied access to criminal records associated with his assault.

On Nov. 10, 2011, Houck was reading an LGBT novel when two inmates entered his cell at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia and assaulted him.

Houck says he continues to recover from his injuries, which included a broken leg.

Houck intends to seek damages as a result of his assault by fellow inmates Kevin V. Hannig and Justin O’Brien.

He’s requesting records from the federal Bureau of Prisons pertaining to his assault so that he has appropriate documentation.

But in a March 16 letter, the U.S. Department of Justice denied Houck’s request for the records, citing invasion-of-privacy concerns.

On March 24, Houck asked the agency to reconsider, arguing that release of the records wouldn’t be an unwarranted privacy invasion.

A DOJ spokesperson had no comment by presstime.

Houck is serving a 97-month sentence, after pleading guilty to one count of transporting child pornography. His scheduled release date is April 24, 2017.

Trial date set in antibias case

A jury trial in the antibias lawsuit of openly gay attorney Jeffrey S. Downs is scheduled to begin April 24 in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

Between 2008-12, Downs worked at the Center City law firm of Anapol Schwartz. In 2012, he was offered a new, higher-paying job at the Center City law firm of Raynes McCarty.

However, the job offer was withdrawn after Anapol officials allegedly conveyed to Raynes officials that Downs was planning to sue Anapol for discrimination.

Downs denies planning to sue Anapol. He alleges the false information caused Raynes to withdraw its job offer, resulting in significant financial losses for him.

Downs also contends that Anapol and Raynes officials defamed him by making false and malicious comments, including that he tried to “shake down” Anapol.

Downs currently works at a law firm in Delaware County, where he earns substantially less money, according to court papers.

— Timothy Cwiek

Retreat offers education for Orthodox Jewish families

An upcoming Orthodox Jewish retreat will offer support and education for parents of LGBT children.

The third-annual Eshel-sponsored weekend retreat will take place April 17-19 at Capital Retreat Center, 12750 Buchanan Trail East in Waynesboro.

This year’s theme of family will include workshops and meetings focused on helping parents and family members come to terms with the coming out-process and its implications.

The event will feature special guest speaker Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.

Eshel is an organization dedicated to creating community understanding and acceptance for LGBT Jews and their families.

For more information or to register, visit

— Ryan Kasley



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