In August 2011, Cal Baptist University in Riverside expelled a student, who had listed her gender as female, when she revealed that she was biologically a male.
Former student Domaine Javier had enrolled in the university to study nursing. She was expelled from the unviersity after revealing her transgender identity on an episode of MTV’s “A True Life.”
Cal Baptist, however, maintained that she was expelled for fraud and that the university does not bar transgender students.
Javier sued the university on the grounds that California’s Unruh Act prohibited discrimination based on a number of factors, including gender identity and gender expression. Javier cited breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and violation of the Unruh act for her suspension, exclusion and expulsion.
On Friday, July 11, both sides claimed victory in court when a judge ruled that the university could exclude a transgender student from on-campus classes, but not university-controlled businesses and services that are open to the public.
In an 11-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask backed Cal Baptist on four of the five claims filed by Javier.
Trask ruled that the Unruh Act applies only to an organization’s business operations; thus, the university’s on-campus classes, in which faculty are required to integrate Christian values into both religious and secular courses, are exempt from the Unruh Act.
James McDonald, an attorney who is representing the university, said that “CBU is pleased that the court recognized that California Baptist University is a private Christian university and is not a business establishment under the Unruh Act.”
Javier’s attorney, Paul Southwick, said that in providing protection for other transgender people, the court’s decision marks a “great day for transgender Californians.”
“Today, the court recognized that transgender people are not frauds and that any business that treats them that way is in violation of the state’s anti-discriminatory statute,” Southwick said. “That is a really strong statement from the court.”
The ruling reportedly allows Javier, who is now studying nursing at Riverside City College, to enroll in online classes at Cal Baptist. Trask also ordered Cal Baptist to pay her $4,000 in damages and awarded her attorney fees.
Javier said that she was “thrilled” by the ruling, adding that “while the monetary award is small, it’s never been about the money for me. It’s about being treated fairly and standing up for what’s right.”
Southwick said that he plans to appeal the parts of the ruling that went against Javier. McDonald, meanwhile, said that the university may appeal the part of the ruling that went against Cal Baptist.