A former employee at Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition has sued the Chicago-based organization and the veteran civil rights activist in a far-reaching suit alleging anti-gay discrimination and harassment, reports the Windy City Times.
In a document filled with stunning allegations, Tommy R. Bennett has filed a complaint with the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations against the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and the minister's Chicago-based organization, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, claiming, among other things, harassment and termination on the basis of Bennett's sexual orientation.
Bennett claims that he experienced discrimination almost immediately after he started the job, saying that Caroline Wiggins, the membership and volunteer coordinator, complained to Jackson that she did not wish to work with Bennett because he is gay. ... Bennett claims that at an all-staff meeting in 2008, he requested an LGBT-themed table for the national convention—and was flatly denied. When Bennett questioned why there could not be a table, Jackson allegedly "cursed at Mr. Bennett in front of all of the staff, and Rev. Jackson was visibly upset during the rest of the meeting."
Bennett was eventually demoted from national director of community affairs and became Rev. Jackson's travel assistant. The charges are quite graphic:
Bennett also claims that he had to escort women to Jackson's room and "clean up his room after sexual intercourse with women. Mr. Bennett believes he was forced to do these tasks due to his sexual orientation."
Things reached an apex later in 2008, when Bennett says he "was summoned to Rev. Jackson's hotel room" at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel. Bennett claims that he was eventually instructed to apply cream to Jackson, who "had a rash between his legs." Bennett says that he refused, resulting in Jackson allegedly calling Bennett a "little motherfucker."
Bennett then states that another time at the same hotel, Jackson summoned him at 1 a.m. to take notes. The complaint states, "When Mr. Bennett arrived, Rev. Jackson was dressed only in his briefs and a v-neck t-shirt." Bennett alleges Jackson was sexually excited.
Bennett relates an anecdote where he says the reverend demanded oral sex:
"Rev. Jackson stated that he played football and there was a gay high school teacher who took Rev. Jackson under his wings and told him that he needed education to go along with football. Rev. Jackson said, '[F]rom that gay teacher, I got a good grade, I got to use his car, I got ten dollars and I got my dick sucked.' Rev. Jackson said, '[T]hat's not gay, that is surviving.'" Bennett alleges this meant Rev. Jackson wanted sex, but that Bennett then left the room.
Bennett is a member of President Obama's LGBT leadership council. Bennett is seeking $98,300 for back pay, $350,000 for emotional distress and punitive damages "and an amendment of Rainbow PUSH's non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity."
Rev Jackson has a long record of support for LGBT rights, dating back to his presidential bids in the 1980s. This is believed to be the first time he has been accused of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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