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Lawyer Fired for Gay Porn Past

Atlanta- Just days before the release of his first book, gay author and attorney Rich Merritt aka Danny Orlis announced this week that he was fired three months ago by his Atlanta employer after providing details of the book to a supervisor.

“Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star” is scheduled for release June 7 by Kensington Books. Merritt then begins a book tour that includes two Atlanta appearances (Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse on June 8 and the Atlanta Executive Network on June 16), a stop in Houston (EMPOWER on June 19), and appearances in New York, Washington, D.C., and Fort Lauderdale later this summer.

Merritt, the gay Marine featured anonymously in a 1998 cover piece in the New York Times Magazine, was fired from Atlanta law firm Powell Goldstein on March 8, he said in an interview Tuesday. The termination was announced May 31 in a press release from his publicist. Gay author Rich Merritt announced this week that he was fired three months ago after a supervisor received a preview of his upcoming book.

“They told me some of the contents in the book would diminish my effectiveness as an attorney with clients.” Merritt said in an interview. “They made sure it was not a sexual orientation issue.”

Merritt said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from providing details about the firing. Calls to Powell Goldstein seeking information about the termination were not immediately returned Tuesday. Martin Gold, a Washington, D.C.-based media representative for the law firm, said he did not know of the incident and could not comment.

The memoir details Merritt’s secret life as a gay Marine as well as his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Merritt said he was fired in March after giving his supervisor at the law firm a copy of a galley copy of the book for review.

The firing was a “bruise to the ego,” but not entirely unexpected, Merritt said.

“It was a risk I took. I knew [the firing] might happen,” he said. “This was definitely a top-down decision.”

Merritt writes in the book that after graduating from Clemson University in December 1990, he was commissioned as an officer in the Marines. He served for almost eight years while remaining deeply closeted. During that time, Merritt worked briefly as a stripper and escort. He also began work as a porn actor for All Worlds Video under the pseudonym “Danny Orlis.” In the course of eight films, he became a star before quitting the industry.

At Powell Goldstein, Merritt worked in products liability litigation and personal injury defense. He is licensed to practice law in California and Georgia. He worked for Powell Goldstein LLP for one year after moving to Atlanta in February 2004 to help his mother care for his ailing father in Greenville, S.C. His father died Jan. 8.

Powell Goldstein was founded 96 years ago in Atlanta and now has an office in Washington, D.C. It offers services in more than 18 areas of law. The firm was a gold sponsor of the Atlanta Human Rights Campaign dinner held May 7.

OIA Newsdesk:- Attorney Rich Merritt, whose memoir “Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star” will soon be released, has been terminated from his position at the Atlanta law firm of Powell Goldstein, LLP, upon voluntarily notifying them earlier this year about the book’s release. While the nature and terms of Merritt’s separation agreement must remain confidential, the author is committed to making the latest chapter in his story public.

“Today’s political climate and the continuing loss of separation between church and state, and public and private life in our country seem to me to demand that we tell our stories, especially when personal freedoms are involved,” says Merritt.

Merritt is the gay Marine featured anonymously in the controversial 1998 “New York Times Magazine” article on gays in the military. His identity was revealed by “The Advocate,” resulting in a storm of notoriety. Merritt, a former fundamentalist Christian and model student at Bob Jones University, had barely finished adjusting to the scrutiny and loss of privacy when “The Advocate” caused an international scandal by revealing he had performed in pornographic gay films.

“Unfortunately, the First Amendment only protects citizens from actions by the government. Any private-sector employee can be fired, as Rich was, for speaking out, such as he did by publishing his memoirs,” says Erwin Chemerinsky, the Alston and Bird Professor of Law at Duke University.

“Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star” describes how Merritt survived what he considers intense fundamentalist brainwashing, self-hatred, and the harsh realities of military life under the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Merritt’s memoir touches on the good and the bad of the male porn industry, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, prostitution, suicide attempts, law school and the stress of hiding his past. The book will be published June 7 by Kensington Books.

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