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ROSENBLATT v. BIVONA & COHEN

November 25, 1996

THEODORE H. ROSENBLATT, Plaintiff, against BIVONA & COHEN, P.C., Defendant.

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHEINDLIN

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.:

 Plaintiff Theodore H. Rosenblatt, a white man, alleges that he was discharged from his employment as a lawyer because he is married to a black woman. He sues his employer, Bivona & Cohen, P.C., for violating 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the New York State Executive Law. Defendant Bivona & Cohen moves for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) plaintiff lacks standing to maintain a suit for relief under the foregoing civil rights statutes; and (2) plaintiff's filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("E.E.O.C.") was untimely, thereby depriving this Court of subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's Title VII claims. *fn1"

 For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is denied.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standing to Sue

 Rosenblatt, a white attorney, joined the law firm of Bivona & Cohen in 1982 and was discharged twelve years later. He claims that his employment was terminated because he is married to a woman of a different race. Because the Second Circuit has not addressed whether a white person, allegedly discriminated against because of an interracial marriage, has standing to sue under the civil rights statutes, both parties have submitted extensive briefs.

 A. Title VII Claim

 Defendant argues that plaintiff lacks standing to sue under Title VII because plaintiff is alleging racial discrimination against his wife, not himself. Defendant relies on Ripp v. Dobbs Houses Inc., 366 F. Supp. 205 (N.D. Ala. 1973), one of the first cases to address this subject. Ripp, who is white, claimed he was discharged because of his association with fellow black employees. The court found that the gravamen of Ripp's complaint was that his employer "abridged his freedom to associate with persons of his own choosing," a claim not cognizable under Title VII. Id. at 208. Because Ripp did not explicitly complain that he suffered discrimination based on his own race, the court concluded that he lacked standing.

 Adams v. Governor's Comm. on Postsecondary Educ., 26 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1348, 1981 WL 27101 (N.D. Ga. Sept. 3, 1981), followed Ripp, holding that a white person allegedly discriminated against because of his wife's race lacked standing to sue under Title VII. The court focused on the wording of the statute and concluded that it only protects individuals discriminated against because of their own race, and not the race of their spouse. *fn2"

 Several courts have rejected the highly restrictive holdings of Ripp and Adams and have instead followed the reasoning of Whitney v. Greater New York Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists, 401 F. Supp. 1363 (S.D.N.Y. 1975). In holding that a white person, allegedly discharged because of her association with a black person, had standing to bring a Title VII action, the Whitney court stated:

 
If [plaintiff] was discharged because, as alleged, the defendant disapproved of a social relationship between a white woman and a black man, the plaintiff's race was as much a factor in the decision to fire her as that of her friend. Specifying as she does that she was discharged because she, a white woman, associated with a black, her complaint falls within the statutory language that she was "discharged . . . because of [her] race."

 Id. at 1366.

 In Parr v. Woodmen of the World Life Ins. Co., 791 F.2d 888, 892 (11th Cir. 1986), the Eleventh Circuit found the Whitney reasoning "irrefutable." The court held that discrimination based upon plaintiff's interracial marriage or association by definition is discrimination based on his race. The Parr court stressed its duty to "make sure that the [Civil Rights] Act works, and [that] the intent of Congress is not hampered by a combination of strict construction of the ...


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