Associated Press, February 8, 2005
BANGOR, Maine The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and a hot line for battered men could be squaring off in court.
A Superior Court judges denial of a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed in September by the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and a plaintiff identified as John Doe has set the stage for the case to go to trial.
The suit claims that the coalitions denial of membership to the men's hot line discriminates against men and their children. It seeks a declaratory judgment against the coalition, along with damages and attorneys fees.
"Were not looking to penalize the coalition," said Ferdinand "Andy" Slater, an Ellsworth attorney. "What were looking for and hoping for are equal services for men. The coalition is resisting that by not allowing the hot line membership in the coalition."
The hot line wants to join the coalition because it is the gatekeeper of federal and state grant money, Slater said. Its bylaws state that organizations seeking membership in the coalition must "provide a full range of services to battered women and their children," he said, but there is no mention about men.
The hot line went to court after it received a "right to sue" letter from the Maine Human Rights Commission, which was unable to consider the complaint within the required time limit.
The coalitions attorney, Thad Zmistowski of Bangor, has asked Justice Jeffrey Hjelm to ask the Supreme Judicial Court to review his denial of the dismissal request.
"Were obviously disappointed in the courts ruling, in particular the two threshold issues we raised in our motion," he said. "The first is whether a corporation (such as the coalition) has a gender identity sufficient to trigger the protections of Maine Human Rights Act. The second is whether plaintiff John Doe, who brought no claim before the Maine Human Rights Commission, is nonetheless entitled to pursue an action in Superior Court."
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