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Jury to decide Michigan professor’s anti-Gay bias suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

A Lansing Circuit Court judge has ruled that a jury trial is in order in the case of a discrimination lawsuit filed in 2005 by Peter Hammer, a former professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Hammer claims he was denied tenure because he is openly gay.

He has since left the university to take a tenured professorship at Wayne State University.

In hearings in 2006, the University of Michigan argued that Hammer had no grounds for a case because the nondiscrimination statement in the university’s employee handbook was a “commitment,” not a legally binding policy. Perhaps that wasn’t the best tactic, and the university quickly abandoned it.

The university shifted its focus to argue that the decision to deny Hammer tenure in 2002 had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. “The Law School provided more accommodation for this candidate than for anyone else in the history of the Law School, and at the end of the day, this decision was based on his scholarship,” university attorney Richard Seryak said.

Hammer’s attorney, Phillip Green, said Hammer deserves a trial because three of the tenure votes came from faculty with clear anti-gay biases. He pointed to Professor William Miller, saying Miller has said the Bible condemns homosexuality as an abomination.

Note: Seventeen states have outlawed sexual orientation discrimination by private employers, but Michigan is not among them.

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