Ashcroft's Refusal to Let Gay Group Meet Violates Promise to Congress, ACLU Says

June 6, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The Justice Department’s refusal to allow its gay employee group to meet violates an explicit promise Attorney General John Ashcroft made at his confirmation hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union charged today, and also violates the department’s own discrimination policy.

At his confirmation hearing on January 17, 2001, and five days later in writing, Ashcroft assured the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would not discriminate against the Department’s Pride group and that he would not change Department policy on how the group was treated.

“DOJ Pride had an event last June at which the second ranking official in the Department spoke, so clearly, the policy has changed,” said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “And the only group apparently excluded under this new policy is the gay group. That looks like discrimination to me.”

The ACLU pointed out that since July 3, 1996, the Justice Department has had a policy against treating employees differently because of sexual orientation. Since the new policy only excludes the gay pride group, it discriminates, according to the ACLU.

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