A former teacher who said she was fired for being gay said she was told Tuesday night that she was fired for a spousal relationship, rather than her sexual orientation.
Hale said Hutson told her the grievance documents support termination, saying that Hale was not terminated for being gay, but for the relationship that was publicized in a newspaper obituary.
Hale said she had taken her older brother’s advice to include her partner’s name while writing her mother’s obituary about an hour after she had died.
“When we got back to the house we told Julie what we had done. She instantly questioned me and said are you sure you want to do this,” said Hale.
Hale says it was the first time their relationship was out there for the public.
A week later, the Bishop Watterson High School gym teacher and coach says she was called to the principal’s office where she saw the anonymous letter a parent had sent to the Catholic Diocese of Columbus. The letter stated how appalled the parent was seeing a woman’s name in the obituary next to Hale’s.
“It is kind of baffling that someone would take an obituary and use it in such a mean-spirited manner,” she said.
Meantime, there’s this legal development:
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Hale’s attorney, Thomas Tootle, told reporters that he would be filing a complaint with Columbus’ Community Relations Commission arguing the diocese violated the city’s anti-discrimination law by firing Hale over her sexual orientation.
Tootle told the Register that he wants Hale reinstated at her job and might also file a lawsuit.
“There are many things that the Catholic Church considers immoral, but why is this treated any differently than adultery, divorce or birth control?” Tootle said. Although he declined to provide evidence of the diocese applying a double standard, he said, “It does seem to be a situation where the Church picks and chooses like they are at the buffet.”
Columbus’ anti-discrimination ordinance criminalizes discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” and has no exemptions for religious employers. Violators face prosecution for a first-degree misdemeanor, a criminal charge that carries up to six months jail time and a $1,000 fine.
“The Catholic diocese is facing a situation where simply living according to its long-held, very open and very public religious beliefs, could somehow be a crime in the city of Columbus. That’s very disconcerting,” Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the Register. The Becket Fund is a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that specializes in cases involving religious liberty, but is not representing the Columbus Diocese at this time.
Blomberg said the Columbus anti-discrimination ordinance goes far beyond standard federal and state non-discrimination laws by imposing criminal penalties on employers, especially religious employers who “might require a statement of belief regarding marriage and family that some might find offensive.”
Blomberg said the law was “unclear” as to whether Bishop Campbell and other diocesan personnel would be liable for jail time or fines.