Philadelphia is a 1993 film about a man with AIDS who is fired by a conservative law firm because of his condition. He hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.
- We're standing here in Philadelphia, the, uh, city of brotherly love, the birthplace of freedom, where the, uh, founding fathers authored the Declaration of Independence, and I don't recall that glorious document saying anything about all straight men are created equal. I believe it says all men are created equal.
- Now, explain it to me like I'm a four-year-old.
- Some of these people make me sick, Philco. But a law's been broken. You remember the law, don't you?
- Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Forget everything you've seen on television and in the movies. There's not gonna be any last minute surprise witnesses. Nobody's gonna break down on the stand with a tearful confession. You're gonna be presented with a simple fact: Andrew Beckett was fired. You'll hear two explanations for why he was fired: ours and theirs. It is up to you to sift through layer upon layer of truth until you determine for yourselves which version sounds the most true. There are certain points that I must prove to you.
Point number one, Andrew Beckett was - is a brilliant lawyer, great lawyer. Point number two, Andrew Beckett, afflicted with a debilitating disease, made the understandable, the personal, the legal choice to keep the fact of his illness to himself. Point number three, his employers discovered his illness, and ladies and gentlemen, the illness I am referring to is AIDS. Point number four, they panicked. And in their panic, they did what most of us would like to do with AIDS, which is just get it, and everybody who has it, as far away from the rest of us as possible.
Now, the behavior of Andrew Beckett's employers may seem reasonable to you. It does to me. After all, AIDS is a deadly, incurable disease. But no matter how you come to judge Charles Wheeler and his partners in ethical, moral, and inhuman terms, the fact of the matter is, when they fired Andrew Beckett because he had AIDS, they broke the law.
- Librarian: Wouldn't you be more comfortable in a research room?
- [Andrew looks up and sees people in the library staring at him]
- Andrew Beckett: No. Would it make you more comfortable?
- Joe Miller: The Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified handicapped persons who are able to perform the duties required by their employment. Although the ruling did not address the specific issue of HIV and AIDS discrimination...
- Andrew Beckett: Subsequent decisions have held that AIDS is protected as a handicap under law, not only because of the physical limitations it imposes, but because the prejudice surrounding AIDS exacts a social death which precede... which precedes the actual physical one.
- Joe Miller: This is the essence of discrimination: formulating opinions about others not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in a group with the same characteristics.
- Andrew Beckett: What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?
- Joe Miller: I don't know.
- Andrew Beckett: A good start.
- Joe Miller: Have you ever felt discriminated against at Wyatt Wheeler?
- Anthea Burton: Well, yes.
- Joe Miller: In what way?
- Anthea Burton: Well, Mr. Wheeler's secretary, Lydia, said that Mr. Wheeler had a problem with my earrings.
- Joe Miller: Really?
- Anthea Burton: Apparently Mr. Wheeler felt that they were too..."Ethnic" is the word he used. And she told me that he said that he would like it if I wore something a little less garish, a little smaller, and more "American."
- Joe Miller: What'd you say?
- Anthea Burton: I said my earrings are American. They're African-American.
- Judge Garrett: In this courtroom, Mr.Miller, justice is blind to matters of race, creed, color, religion, and sexual orientation.
- Joe Miller: With all due respect, your honor, we don't live in this courtroom though, do we?
- Joe Miller: What do you love about the law, Andrew?
- Andrew Beckett: I... many things... uh... uh... What I love the most about the law?
- Joe Miller: Yeah.
- Andrew Beckett: It's that every now and again - not often, but occasionally - you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.
- Andrew Beckett: Do you like opera?
- Joe Miller: I'm not that familiar with opera.
- Andrew Beckett: This is my favorite aria. This is Maria Callas. This is "Andrea Chenier", Umberto Giordano. This is Madeleine. She's saying how during the French Revolution, a mob set fire to her house, and her mother died... saving her. "Look, the place that cradled me is burning." Can you hear the heartache in her voice? Can you feel it, Joe? In come the strings, and it changes everything. The music fills with a hope, and that'll change again. Listen... listen..."I bring sorrow to those who love me." Oh, that single cello! "It was during this sorrow that love came to me." A voice filled with harmony. It says, "Live still, I am life. Heaven is in your eyes. Is everything around you just the blood and mud? I am divine. I am oblivion. I am the god... that comes down from the heavens, and makes of the Earth a heaven. I am love!... I am love."
- No one would take on his case... until one man was willing to take on the system.