A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the lawsuit filed by former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran against the city and Mayor Kasim Reed will move forward, however several of Cochran’s claims were dismissed.
Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal group, filed the lawsuit on Cochran’s behalf in February following Mayor Reed firing him after the discovery of a book Cochran wrote that included passages comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. The city filed a motion to dismiss in March and Cochran got his first day in court in October.
Cochran made nine claims against the city and Mayor Reed, and U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May ruled on the motion to dismiss in her filing Wednesday. May ruled in favor of Cochran on the claims of retaliation, discrimination based on his viewpoint, and violation of his constitutionally protected freedoms of religion, association, and due process (firing without following proper procedure).
However, she dismissed the other four claims: the First Amendment establishment clause, Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws, Fourteenth Amendment right to due process: vagueness and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process: liberty interest. In addition, three of the claims against Mayor Reed were dropped, but the city still remains a defendant in those.
“This lawsuit is not about religious beliefs, nor is it about the First Amendment. Rather, it is an employment matter involving an executive in charge of 1,129 firefighters and tasked to lead by example. Instead of leadership, the former executive failed to follow his employer’s rules for outside employment,” city spokeswoman Anne Torres told Georgia Voice Thursday afternoon. “The City looks forward to presenting all relevant facts, and ultimately will prevail.”
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot issued a statement following the ruling, saying, “A religious or ideological test cannot be used to fire a public servant, but the city did exactly that, as the evidence and facts of this case clearly demonstrate. We look forward to proceeding with this case because of the injustice against Chief Cochran, one of the most accomplished fire chiefs in the nation, but also because the city’s actions place every city employee in jeopardy who may hold to a belief that city officials don’t like.”