A Catholic high school in Ohio may have violated the law when it fired a teacher after her mother’s obituary revealed that she was a lesbian.
Carla Hale told The Columbus Dispatch that she worked at Bishop Watterson High School in Clintonville for 19 years until an anonymous parent complained that her mother’s obituary had listed the name of her same sex domestic partner.
“On the morning of March 12th, I was called into the conference room before school and I was handed a copy of an anonymous letter,” Hale recalled. “And the anonymous letter referred to my mom’s obituary as having a woman’s name in parentheses beside my name and [the parent] was appalled at the fact that I was teaching at Bishop Watterson.”
Hale said that putting her partner’s name in the obituary seemed like right decision at the time.
“My mom really loved Julie and Julie loved my mom, and as I sat there with my brother, you know, it was like, his wife was mentioned, my niece’s husband was mentioned,” she explained. “So, why not? Why not the person I love?”
Columbus Civil Rights Code Chapter 23.31 makes it illegal to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation. The city law has no exemption for religious organizations.
Attorney Thomas Tootle, who is representing Hale, said that a complaint had been filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus based on a termination letter, which specifically refers to her same sex relationship.
But Tootle explained that the lack of federal law protecting LGBT workers “forces people into the closet.”
“If you are at risk of being terminated at any time and for any reason, including your orientation, would you come out, especially when you’re working for the Catholic Church?” he pointed out.
Watch this video from The Columbus Dispatch, broadcast April 18, 2013.