Less than two weeks before our client Lorenzo Taylor’s case was scheduled for trial, the U.S. Foreign Service has established new guidelines, lifting its ban on hiring candidates with HIV.
The Foreign Service will no longer automatically reject job candidates based on their HIV status but will instead assess each on a case-by-case basis — as the federal Rehabilitation Act requires.
Lambda Legal has represented Lorenzo Taylor since 2003 in his fight against the State Department for denying him employment because he is HIV-positive. Taylor, who speaks three languages and holds a degree from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, received a conditional offer of employment after passing the rigorous application process required to be a Foreign Service Officer.
The offer was retracted because he has HIV. Lorenzo Taylor was denied medical clearance even though he has never had any HIV related illness and his medication had completely suppressed the virus in his system.
This case challenged a federal policy of bias and discrimination. It barred the door not just for Taylor, but for all people living with HIV, limiting their opportunities for government service based on outdated notions about the ability of people living with HIV to work.
Lambda Legal Client
“I wanted to serve my country as a Foreign Service Officer, but was told, ‘Sorry we don’t need your kind,’” Lorenzo says. “Now people like me who apply to the Foreign Service will not have to go through what I did. They and others with HIV will know that they do not have to surrender to stigma, ignorance, fear, or the efforts of anyone, even the federal government, to impose second-class citizenship on them. They can fight back.”
- September 2003 Lambda Legal files lawsuit in federal court arguing that the STATE Department illegally prohibits anyone with HIV from being hired as a Foreign Service Officer, regardless of applicant’s qualifications or health status.
- April 2005 Federal district court rules in favor of the state Department, saying that the government should not have to accommodate Taylor by letting him use some of his sick and vacation leave, available to all Foreign Service Officers, to travel to see his doctor.
- June 2005 Lambda Legal files an appeal To ask a higher court to reverse the decision of a trial court with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
- April 2006 Lambda Legal presents oral arguments in the case.
- June 2006 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issues decision stating that Taylor presented “more than enough” evidence for the matter to go to trial.
- February 2008 Less than two weeks before our trial date, the U.S State Department adopts new hiring guidelines and lifts its ban against hiring people with HIV as Foreign Service Officers.