- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2006

An Arlington businessman is suing county officials who had ordered him to reproduce homosexual-themed videos that ran counter to his Christian beliefs.

The case also challenges the county’s authority to investigate discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Arlington County Circuit Court by Orlando, Fla.-based nonprofit Liberty Counsel on behalf of Tim Bono and Bono Film and Video Inc. against Arlington County, the county board and the county’s human rights commission.

It comes more than a year after Mr. Bono was asked last May by Lilli M. Vincenz to reproduce documentaries titled “Gay and Proud” and “Second Largest Minority,” which contained footage she had taken of homosexual-rights marches in 1968 and 1970.

Mr. Bono declined the job, pointing to a “core values” page on his company’s Web site that states there is “certain ‘potential’ work out there that we will not accept.”

“No content should embarrass our employees or tarnish our reputation. No pornography. No sexually explicit material. No content promoting violence or hate that runs counter to our Christian and ethical values. We will not debate the merits of your material if it crosses our line,” the Web page on www.bonofilm.com states.

Miss Vincenz said that she went to Mr. Bono originally because his father, who formerly ran the 45-year-old company, had done the same work on the same videos when she had brought them to him in the past.

“That’s why I chose them,” she said.

Miss Vincenz, a psychotherapist and self-described homosexual-rights activist, complained to the Arlington Human Rights Commission, a county agency whose job is to “receive, investigate, and conciliate complaints from those who believe they have been victims of unlawful discrimination” based on race, national origin, color, marital status, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or familial status.

In an April 13 decision, the eight-member commission upheld the complaint and ordered Bono Film to duplicate the films at Ms. Vincenz’s expense or to pay for another company to provide the service.

Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty Counsel’s senior litigation counsel, said the county’s response was wrong on several different levels.

“First of all, the county doesn’t even have the authority to investigate claims about sexual-orientation discrimination,” she said.

Ms. Lindevaldsen cited Virginia’s Dillon Rule, which is named for 19th century judge and legal scholar John Forrest Dillon, and states that local governments have only the powers expressly conferred upon them by statute.

Since the Commonwealth of Virginia does not recognize discrimination based on sexual orientation, Ms. Lindevaldsen said that the county should be prohibited from passing or enforcing those laws.

Officials in Arlington County, which has included sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy since 1993, dismissed that argument.

“We’re studying the suit and it does not appear to be well founded,” said county attorney Stephen A. MacIsaac.

But a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, seemed to agree with Ms. Lindevaldsen’s interpretation.

“It is the opinion of this office that without enabling legislation, no locality can include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy. If a locality chooses to act outside of its authority in any manner, it runs the risk of having a court strike the underlying ordinance,” said David E. Clementson.

Ms. Lindevaldsen also said Mr. Bono based his refusal to duplicate the films on their content and that he was not discriminating against Miss Vincenz because he had no idea of her sexual orientation.

Mr. Bono did not return a phone message left at his company yesterday.

Miss Vincenz said yesterday that she was disappointed but not surprised at the development. She also said she has since found another company to duplicate her videos.

“It’s just one of those things,” she said. “I don’t agree with it, but I just have to hope something good will come out of it.”

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