Appeal in Iowa State’s gay-bias lawsuit likely

Tracy Deutmeyer

The trial is not over yet, but Iowa State lawyer Paul Tanaka said if a gay-bias ruling against the university is not changed, then an appeal is likely.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for Southern Iowa awarded a former ISU English professor more than $300,000 in the case. Former Assistant Professor Roy Higginson sued the university and former English department head Frank Haggard, claiming he was denied tenure because he was gay.

Higginson was hired by ISU in 1985 and left the university in 1992.

“I really think if the status of the case is not changed, the university will appeal,” Tanaka said. “There is plenty of evidence that there was no discrimination.”

According to court records, a jury awarded Higginson $325,000. “There is still some procedural things in District Court to be taken care of,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka said the court will enter judgement on the case in the next two weeks. The jury awarded Higginson, who now lives in San Diego, monetary damages for four different items.

Higginson was awarded $144,730 for lost earnings and fringe benefits in the past, $162,611 for lost earnings and fringe benefits in the future and $17,659 for past emotional distress and mental anguish.

Anthony Renzo, Higginson’s attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Ryan Sievers, co-president of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Ally Alliance on campus, said he is skeptical about the university’s chances with an appeal.

“I seriously doubt the university would win an appeal. These kind of judgments tend to stick,” Sievers said. “The university has to pay this somehow, and I doubt it has $300,000 sitting around. It would be in the university’s best interest to avoid discrimination.”

Reis Pearson, LGBTA student services coordinator, said she does not want to focus on ISU. But she added that any ruling in favor of protecting gay rights is favorable.

“Discrimination against anyone is illegal,” Pearson said. “Just because ISU included the idea of protecting gays in a statement, doesn’t mean it’s being practiced.”

Damages Awarded to Higginson

Past lost earning, benefits $144,730

Future lost earnings, benefits $162,611

Emotional distress, anguish $17,659

Total $325,000