Sex Discrimination Law Suit Begins Proceedings
Regina Conley, Tower Staff
September 16, 2011
Filed under News
University President John H. Garvey’s decision to force same sex dorms faced its first legal challenge this week as a George Washington University law professor, John. F. Banzhaf, claims it is discriminatory.
University law representatives defended reasons for the switch yesterday at a closed-door meeting at the D.C. Office of Human Rights. Garvey did not attend this meeting and has yet to personally respond to the allegations.
Opponents claim Garvey violated the D.C. Human Rights Act which contains some of the strictest anti-discrimination law in the U.S., by illegally discriminating based on sex.
Under D.C. law, an institution cannot discriminate on any grounds unless they can prove a “business necessity” or prove that their company will cease to function without the discriminatory law.
Banzahf brought the claim after Garvey announced his plans for making the University’s residence halls single-sex in a June 13 Wall Street Journal op-ed.
This issue is a hot topic for students as many arrived at school this fall to find all of the freshmen residence halls arranged for single-sex residents.
Garvey outlined his reasons for switching to same-sex dorms citing statistics that show that single-sex dorms lead to reduced binge-drinking and pre-marital sex.
“Rates of depression reach 20% for young women who have had two or more sexual partners in the last year, almost double the rate for women who have had none,” he wrote. “Sexually active young men do more poorly than abstainers in their academic work. And as we have always admonished our own children, sex on these terms is destructive of love and marriage. Here is one simple step colleges can take to reduce both binge drinking and hooking up: Go back to single-sex residences.”
Banzahf said that Garvey’s motives might be noble, but he doubted that single-sex dormitories would contribute to increased virtue.
“I don’t think he’s lying,” said Banzahf in a phone interview with The Tower. “I think he’s thinking in the 60s.”
Banzahf has made a name for himself in the District by bringing more than 100 legal complaints against companies that were practicing discrimination based on D.C. law.
He has recently won many local sex discrimination cases including one against the Cosmos and Metropolitan Clubs, forcing them to admit women, a case against the CityPaper which was required to no longer publish discriminatory ads and against local dry cleaners forcing them to charge the same price for men’s shirts as women’s.
Banzahf said he is confident in his allegations against Garvey and wonders why Garvey has refused to personally respond to his charges.
“They have been offered to speak various times,” said Banzahf. “I don’t understand why they decline to comment.”
Banzahf said he would like to know which part of the law the University is relying on since he sees no way for the single-sex dorm policy to stand.
“You cannot get exemption for religion,” he said. “Georgetown discriminated based on sexual orientation a few years ago and when accused, they quoted Catholic doctrine but they did not get exemption.”
Banzahf compared the University’s single-sex dorm policy to discrimination based on religion.
“It’s the same as saying that since Muslims and Jews don’t get along we should force them to live apart,” he said. “Should we also have separate sex classes or separate sex parking lots?”
Vice President of Public Affairs Victor Nakas, who would not make a comment on the University’s position in relation to the case due to confidentiality issues, said, “We remain confident that under local and federal law we have every right to move forward with same-sex dorms.”
Banzahf is planning to file additional illegal sex discrimination suits against Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., the ex officio Chancellor of the University and Archbishop of Detroit, Allen H. Vigneron, the Chairman of the University’s board of trustees.