Entertainment & Sports Law

American Idol Contestant Claims in Bias Suit He Was Told to ‘Gay It Up’

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An American Idol contestant’s claim that producers told him to “gay it up” is at issue in his third bias lawsuit against the show.

Openly gay contestant Ian Benardo alleges that show producers directed him to act effeminate and called him a “fag” and a “homo,” Ad Week reports.

His first two suits made similar claims, but they were dismissed “on technicalities,” Ad Week reported in an earlier story. Now he has a lawyer and has reduced his claim for damages from $300 million to $5 million.

Benardo made three appearances on Amerian Idol, the last when he rushed the stage during Simon Cowell’s farewell episode. Benardo said he was asked to appear in the farewell show and to act “outrageous” and “extra flamboyant.”

American Idol lawyer Mark Goldberg has filed a motion to dismiss (PDF), Ad Week says. Even if the producers did make derogatory comments, the motion says, the slurs didn’t constitute harassment. Telling a contestant to “gay it up” was “an act of acceptance and encouragement,” according to the document.

More specifically, the motion to dismiss claims:

• The suit fails to allege any adverse employment action.

• Benardo’s allegations are insufficient to support a claim of a hostile work environment.

• Benardo is improperly trying to convert a claim about discrimination based on sexual orientation to one for gender stereotyping to assert a Title VII violation.

• Benardo’s complaints about comments made in 2006 and 2007 are time-barred.

• The suit should have been filed in Los Angeles where the show was produced rather than New York, the site of Benardo’s audition.

Updated at 10:20 a.m. to include additional details from the motion to dismiss.

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