A 33-year-old North Hollywood sales executive has sued a Westwood spiritual foundation for allegedly refusing to allow him to go on a retreat because foundation officials found out that he had tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus, which can lead to AIDS. The lawsuit, filed in Santa Monica Superior Court, is apparently the first in the state to challenge a refusal of service in a situation that does not involve physical contact.
Mark Gittelson contended that a representative of the Jacumba Foundation phoned him four days before the October retreat at a ranch in the Victorville area, and told Gittelson that he could not participate because there was no time to notify others of his health status.
“This case presents the new question of whether or not a business may discriminate if it fears a negative reaction by customers to the presence of a person who is perceived to have AIDS,” said Gittelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred. The suit seeks an injunction prohibiting Jacumba from barring Gittelson from its events. At the Jacumba office, a man who identified himself as foundation head Michael Gottlieb said the group is a church and “it’s against our religious principles to foster or support homosexuality.”
Allred declined to comment on Gittelson’s sexual orientation, but said, “Whether he is or isn’t (homosexual), to discriminate against him because they thought he was is unlawful.”