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Lambda Legal and Communities Launch Protests Against Cirque du Soleil for HIV Discrimination, Starting With "Alegria" Show That Opens Tonight in San Francisco
Leafleting Will "Welcome" Cirque du Soleil to San Francisco Tonight; Large Community Action Set for Nov. 20 in San Francisco; Events Planned Nationwide

November 6, 2003

San Francisco -- As Cirque du Soleil opens its "Alegria" show in San Francisco tonight, Lambda Legal and community leaders announced protests against the company for discriminating against people with HIV.

"Discrimination: Another Side of Cirque du Soleil" launches tonight with protestors "welcoming" the show to San Francisco by greeting people in line to see the performance with leaflets and materials on the company’s discrimination. Lambda Legal also announced that it is co-sponsoring a large community action in San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 20, to protest Cirque du Soleil for firing a top-notch gymnast because he has HIV.

In addition to the San Francisco show this month, Lambda Legal and local leaders will hold community events at Cirque du Soleil performances in a number of cities, including Atlanta (March 25 through April 11, 2004) and New York (May 6 through June 6, 2004).

What: Community action against Cirque du Soleil for HIV discrimination (background and campaign materials are at

Who: Lambda Legal, local organizations, community leaders

When: Thursday, Nov. 6, 2003, 6:30 p.m.: Community members will "welcome" Cirque du Soleil to San Francisco, distributing leaflets and information outside the opening performance of "Alegria"; Thursday, Nov. 20, 2003, 6:30 p.m.: Local organization, community leaders and Lambda Legal will hold a large community action outside the evening performance of "Alegria"

Where: Parking lot across from Pac Bell Park

Lambda Legal filed a federal discrimination complaint in July against Cirque du Soleil on behalf of Matthew Cusick, who was fired because he has HIV. Although Cirque's own doctors cleared him to safely perform for the Las Vegas-based show "Mystere," Cirque du Soleil management told Cusick that because he has HIV the company would not continue to employ him. In a letter this spring responding to Lambda Legal’s formal request to reinstate Cusick in the performance, Cirque du Soleil’s attorneys said the company was acting as a "socially responsible employer" that has an obligation to avoid "known safety hazards."

"The campaign we’re launching with communities today will expose the other side of Cirque du Soleil. Over the next few weeks in San Francisco -- and over the next few months nationwide -- we are reaching out directly to people who are attending Cirque’s shows to tell them the rest of the story," said Michael Adams, Director of Education & Public Affairs at Lambda Legal. "Cirque du Soleil wants to market itself aggressively to the gay community and make a tremendous amount of money from the gay community, without being accountable for its discrimination. Today, we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with local leaders and launching this campaign to put that to a stop."

San Francisco activist Aaron Baldwin, who is planning the local activities with Lambda Legal, said, "We are drawing a line in the sand, which has often been the case here in San Francisco. Discrimination against people with HIV or AIDS is a serious concern for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and we won’t allow Cirque du Soleil’s discrimination against Matthew Cusick to go unnoticed. We’re looking forward to talking with a number of people at tonight’s opening show, as well as at the larger Nov. 20 community action. We believe that when enough fair-minded people learn about this discrimination, they will come to see a completely different side of Cirque than what is currently being presented in ads and magazine covers, and they will demand an end to this hypocrisy."

For more information, read our package of materials for the "Discrimination: Another Side of Cirque du Soleil" campaign -- including printable leaflets and post-cards, petitions and other resources.

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