• Bisexual man sues Union Gospel Mission for job discrimination

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    Matt Woods, 31, is suing the Union Gospel Mission for discriminating against him because of his sexual orientation. 

    Woods is bisexual. While he was in law school, he volunteered at the Union Gospel Mission through Open Door Legal Services for three years. He says in October 2016, when a staff attorney position was open, he applied.  

    Woods said he was even encouraged to apply, but when he told them he was bisexual the situation quickly changed. According to the lawsuit, Weber was told "sorry you won't be able to apply."

    "I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me until I was told I didn't qualify solely on the basis of my sexual orientation," said Woods. "It was very disappointing. It was a dream job for me."

    Woods was told his behavior violates the Union Gospel Mission Code of Conduct: "All staff members are expected to live by a Biblical moral code that excludes extra-marital affairs, sex outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, drunkenness...and any activity that would have an appearance of evil."

    "To hear myself and others in my community lumped in with those who would 'appear evil' was very disappointing," said Woods.

    Woods told KIRO 7 this is not about the money; he doesn't want to take away funds that could be used to help the homeless. He said he wants the Union Gospel Mission to change their policy.

    "I'd like them to change their hiring practices, to work alongside the LGBTQ community, to be able to provide the great services they do provide to all people," said Woods.

    Jeff Lilley is the president of the Union Gospel Mission and is unapologetic about the code of conduct.

    "When it comes down to being a part of a full-time staff, what we do, there is no secret that we're a strong Christian organization, Seattle's Union Gospel Mission. We're all about the gospel," said Lilley.

    He told KIRO 7 it is no secret the Union Gospel Mission is a conservative Christian organization. He says all of his employees, about 230, have signed the code of conduct and could be asked to share their faith with those they are serving.

    "For all of our paid staff, we want them to be about our core purpose and our core purpose is to present the gospel through rescue mission work. So what that means, is whether you're a truck driver or you work in the kitchen or if you're an attorney, you're going to be working with clients along the way," explained Lilley.

    He says the Union Gospel Mission is a religious organization and is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

    He is disappointed the Union Gospel Mission will have to take money away from helping the homeless to respond to the lawsuit.

    "It's unfortunate," said Lilley. "It's the type of thing, in the middle of all the work that we're doing, to have to address something like this, it's not the kind of thing that helps us move forward."

    Woods hopes the Union Gospel Mission will adjust the code of conduct.

    "I want them to stop discriminating," said Woods. "Because the work that they do will be that much better if they do it hand in hand with people like me."

     


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