Expelled transgender student sues California Baptist University
Domaine Javier, 25, who was expelled from the California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., in August 2011, filed her lawsuit on Monday, and accused the school of violating state anti-discrimination laws and breach of contract.
Javier is seeking $500,000 in damages.
In court documents, Javier attached a letter stating that she was expelled “because of fraud or concealing identity.” She also alleges that a university official informed her that she “inaccurately stated on her university application that she is a female.”
In an October 2011 interview with The Press-Enterprise, Javier said she has identified as female since she was a toddler.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Javier said. “They said, ‘On your application form you put female.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s how I see myself.’”
She told the paper in that same interview that Cal Baptist officials told her they discovered her appearance on an MTV “True Life” episode titled, “I’m Passing as Someone I’m Not,” while conducting a background check on her.
Portland, Ore.-based civil rights attorney Paul Southwick, who is representing Javier, said that the university has maligned his client’s reputation.
“They’ve falsely accused her of fraud and of concealing her identity,” he said. “She was humiliated and forced to delay her education and career.”
The suit alleges that, “California Baptist University suspended her, excluded her from campus, and expelled her for one reason: she is transgender. [...] As a result of the suspension, exclusion, and expulsion, Ms. Javier has suffered economic damages, including loss of the honors scholarships California Baptist University awarded and loss of wages.”
Javier had enrolled in Cal Baptist’s nursing program and had been awarded a $3,500 academic scholarship, in addition to a $2,000 music scholarship, the suit states.
Southwick said that her rights were violated by a university that cannot use its status as a religious academic institution to do so based on the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based upongender identity.“California Baptist University is open to the public, regardless of religious belief. CBU also does not have a policy regarding transgender people or gender identity issues.” Southwick said adding; “She [Javier] followed all of CBU’s rules and did not violate any university policies, so she should be treated like any other student.”
Jim Wood, a senior pro bono counsel for the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center disagreed with the application of the Unruh Act, saying that the law generally does not cover private universities.
Southwick argued that Cal Baptist, which is open to people of all faiths and primarily offers degrees in secular fields, functions as a business establishment offering services to the general public, which means it is covered under the law.
“We’re not talking about a private seminary or Bible college,” he said. “Just because Cal Baptist is a religiously affiliated institution doesn’t give it a right to discriminate.”
Established in 1950, CBU is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and has an estimated enrollment of over 6,000 students and allows for non-Baptists and non-Christians to enroll.
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