A federal judge denied Wednesday the city of Atlanta’s attempt to throw out a wrongful termination case brought by former fire chief Kelvin Cochran.
Cochran, who has served as a firefighter for 34 years, was fired after publishing and distributing a book that addressed issues of homosexuality, gay marriage and premarital sex from a biblical perspective.
“The judge’s decision to allow the lawsuit to go on is extremely significant,” said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel David Cortman, who is representing Cochran in his case.
The city was looking to say there’s no validity to this case—we were just in firing him and the court doesn’t even have to let the case go forward—and the court rightly rejected that and said no, there’s enough evidence here to move forward.
After being suspended without pay for 30 days, Cochran, an evangelical Christian, was fired from his job on Jan. 6. Less than a month later, he filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and its mayor, Kasim Reed, arguing he was wrongfully terminated because of his Christian faith and beliefs.
Anne Torres, communications director for Reed, told The Daily Signal the case 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,” she said. “Instead of leadership, the former executive failed to follow his employer’s rules for outside employment.”
The city argued to drop the case before a U.S. District Court in Atlanta, but on Wednesday, Judge Leigh Martin May dismissed that request, greenlighting the majority of Cochran’s motions to move forward.
The city can file an appeal, but the case will now proceed to the discovery phase before May issues her final ruling.
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