Denied access to facial reconstruction surgery
The GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project (GLBTQ-DVP) and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) have filed briefs with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on behalf of a gay male survivor of domestic violence who was denied access to facial reconstruction surgery by The R.O.S.E. Fund. The Commission had previously found that there was probable cause in this case that discrimination had occurred.
The R.O.S.E. Fund established a partnership with leading healthcare institutions to provide free or low-cost reconstructive surgery to survivors of domestic violence. Through this program, R.O.S.E. refers survivors to institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Tufts Dental School. But they denied a referral to the complainant because he is a man.
Curt Rogers, Executive Director of GLBTQ-DVP, said, “When victims are denied access to care based on gender or sexual orientation, it is devastating to them. They are re-traumatized, left without support, and in many cases, they are more likely to experience continued and escalating abuse.”
“Our client is precisely the person to whom R.O.S.E. provides services, but for his sex: he was injured as a result of domestic violence and he was in financial need,” said Bennett Klein, Senior Attorney at GLAD. “There is nothing R.O.S.E. needed to do differently to refer a man as opposed to a woman. Denying our client these services was straightforward discrimination.”
The complainant’s severe injuries at the hands of his abusive partner included broken bones in the face, and broken teeth. In 2008, his advocate brought him to the attention of the R.O.S.E. Fund in response to an email she had received soliciting applicants for their services. When the Fund denied his request, he filed a complaint with MCAD, which made its probable cause finding in July 2012.
A letter to MCAD was submitted jointly by Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral and Sheridan Haines, Executive Director of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual & Domestic Violence, stating in part, “The R.O.S.E. Fund’s work to help survivors…is deeply admirable…Nevertheless, in denying male victims the opportunity to be referred for critical reconstructive surgery and other medical services, the R.O.S.E. Fund denies the reality of their experience and the reality of intimate partner violence, which is indiscriminate.” The GLBT Domestic Violence Coalition, The Network/La Red, Jane Doe Inc., REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, and Transition House also submitted letters to MCAD.
In addition, a number of organizations, including women’s and domestic violence groups, have signed on to an amicus brief in support of the complainant. They are the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), the Elizabeth Stone House, Fenway Health, Harbor COV, Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC), Mass. NOW, the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, MassEquality, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Renewal House, The Second Step, and TOD@S. The brief was written by the firm Prince Lobel.
In addition to Mr. Klein, the complainant is represented by attorneys Jennifer Levi of GLAD and Wayne A. Thomas Jr. of the GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project.