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Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission asks US Supreme Court to decide anti-LGBTQ hiring lawsuit

The 2017 lawsuit claims the mission's hiring policy violates Washington state law.
Seattle's Union Gospel Mission

SEATTLE — SEATTLE - The Union Gospel Mission, a charitable organization known for working with Seattle’s homeless, is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a lawsuit involving the mission’s anti-LGBTQ hiring policy.

The mission was accused of refusing to hire attorney Matthew Woods, who told the mission that he was in a same-sex relationship, for a free legal aid clinic because of his sexual orientation.

Woods sued the mission in 2017, saying he had applied for the job after being encouraged to do so during an internship with the mission’s legal aid program before the church knew about his relationship.

Woods’ attorneys argued in a brief that the hiring policy violated the state law that prohibits employers from considering job applicants based on anything beyond their qualifications.

Jeff Lilly, then-president of the Union Gospel Mission, said at the time of the lawsuit that the group is “willing to work with anybody and everybody along the way, but what we ask is that those who are employed on staff are consistent with the very purpose of our mission.”

The mission argued that as a religious employer it was exempt from the Washington state law.

When a King County Superior Court judge agreed with the mission, the case was taken up by the Washington Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court overturned the judge’s decision, kicking the case back to the superior court.

The Union Gospel Mission is one of the biggest homeless services nonprofits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.