BEIJING, Sept 28 (Reuters) - A gay kindergarten teacher in China is suing his former school after being fired last month, in what his lawyer called a landmark case to test China’s protection of minority groups.
The teacher was dismissed in August from a school in the coastal city of Qingdao after he posted on social media about an LGBT event he planned to attend, his lawyer Tang Xiangqian told Reuters.
The teacher declined to comment or be identified when contacted by Reuters.
Tang said his client was told by the school principal that parents may not want a gay man teaching their children.
After decades of prudent rule by China’s Communist Party, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are now openly tackling bureaucracy, legal uncertainty and entrenched social norms to assert their place in society.
The teacher was asked to leave without sufficient severance or payment for his 10 percent stake in the school, Tang said.
“The main reason we filed this case is not just as a labour dispute but to make the gay community more visible to a wider group of people. To let more people realise that they can easily be victims of discrimination,” Tang said.
Chinese labour laws lack specific sections on LGBT issues, but there are broad provisions against discrimination that can be used by minority groups to protect their rights, Tang said.
A court in Qingdao accepted the teacher’s case on Thursday.
Tang said, as far as he was aware, it is the first case in China of a gay teacher taking a school to court after being fired over sexual orientation.
The teacher is seeking a court order that he be rehired and paid compensation for his financial losses, according to a copy of the court filing seen by Reuters.
The name of the school and the court were redacted in the court filing. Tang declined to give the names of the court and the school because he said it might affect the case.
Chinese activists have organised rallies to press for greater protections for the LGBT community - and same-sex marriage - to be included in a civil code set to be passed in 2020.
Despite thriving gay scenes in many of China’s big cities and growing awareness of LGBT issues, the community has battled against Confucian values and government censorship. (Reporting by Christian Shepherd)