Gay Black Man Sues Liberty University for Discrimination: 'God Doesn't Hate His Children'

Wednesday July 21, 2021

LeeQuan McLaurin
LeeQuan McLaurin  (Source:Associated Press)

A gay Black man named LeeQuan McLaurin has filed a lawsuit against Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s Liberty University for discrimination, reports LGBTQ Nation.

According to Lynchburg, Virginia, news outlet ABC13 News, "McLaurin worked for Liberty from July 2018 to June 2020. McLaurin is a Black, gay, Christian who worked as an associate director of student engagement and the director of diversity retention."

McLaurin claims he was subjected to discrimination by senior management for his race and sexuality.

He also says he was paid less than others, was assigned a job he had declined, and was told by a supervisor that he needed to "profess an understanding that God hates LGBTQIA+ people."

The lawsuit claims that there were "clear differences in McLaurin's pay rate and employees with similar positions," ABC13 News reports. "McLaurin claims that when he was offered the role of director of diversity retention, he was offered $52,000, while the previous director was offered $60,000. McLaurin declined this position due to pay; however, the university assigned it to him anyway."

McLaurin has worked for Liberty University since he graduated from the school in 2015. He worked as the associate director of student engagement and director of diversity retention at the evangelical college from July 2018 to June 2020. Over that time, he claims his supervisor, Greg Dowell, berated him for his beliefs.

He also accuses Dowell of misrepresenting him to promote a campus event with Black conservative firebrand Candace Owens. "McLaurin accuses the school of using him 'as a token representative of the Black community without his consent.' Their mistreatment violated about seven state and federal laws, the lawsuit claims," writes LGBTQ Nation. The event, called "Blexit," was intended to encourage Black people to leave the Democratic party.

According to the lawsuit, McLaurin claims he was also told that he and other members of the LGBTQ community "should be happy the university 'allowed' them to be there."

McLaurin was "constructively discharged" on June 2, 2020. The discrimination caused him to seek professional therapy and medication for mental health reasons, adds ABC13 News.

"The complaint doesn't state any specific monetary amounts; however, McLaurin requested missed pay, benefits and other damages."

While an undergraduate, McLaurin joined a Bible study group called Armor Bearers, which, according to the Religious News Service, was run by a Liberty staffer and geared toward men who were described as "struggling" with their sexuality.

But at least "one other former Liberty student has publicly described the group, which is believed to still exist, as a form of conversion therapy, a practice that was declared illegal for minors in the state of Virginia — where Liberty resides — earlier this year," RNS adds.

But if converting McLaurin was the goal, the effort failed. McLaurin ended up meeting his college boyfriend through Armor Bearers, which he said for many others functioned less like a hub for conversion and more as a "hookup group."

"McLaurin also ultimately came to reject its core message: 'I realized that some of those teachings that I had learned were pretty toxic, unhealthy and unnecessary for me — because God doesn't hate his children,'" adds RSN.

The late Jerry Falwell, Sr., who founded Liberty University in 1971, had a long history of homophobic commentary. "In the 1980s, he labeled AIDS as divine punishment for gay people and for 'the society that tolerates homosexuals,' according to The Washington Post. He later warned his followers to take action to prevent LGBTQ people from gaining their rights," writes RNS.

"If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children ... and our nation will pay a terrible price!" Falwell, Sr. is quoted as saying in 1997.

His son, Falwell, Jr., has continued the same homophobic rhetoric. "Just like his father, Falwell Jr. has stoked his hatred of LGBTQ people personally and professionally," notes the Daily Beast. "Just like his father he has had influence within the Republican Party. His anti-LGBTQ, conservative ramblings are not just the province of a preacher. He has access to the kinds of policymakers who scheme to ensure LGBTQ people are kept as second-class citizens under the law. He has done all he can to make LGBTQ people as unequal and stigmatized as they were in his father's era."

Falwell, Jr., though, was forced to resign last August over a scandal involving his wife and a pool boy she had a long-term relationship with during their marriage, an affair he allegedly knew about and was said to have participated in.