A lesbian teacher said this week that she was fired from her job at a Catholic school in Detroit after officials warned her that her “non-traditional” pregnancy could not be hidden from students.
Barbara Webb, 33, told WXYZ that she and her wife, Kristen, wanted to start a family after two years of marriage.
“We were really excited when it worked,” she said.
But Webb knew that her employer, Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, had rules that prohibited her publicly violating Catholic doctrine. So, she met with school officials in July to ask for a leave of absence.
Officials told her that they had concerns about her “lifestyle or actions directly contradictory to the Catholic faith,” she recalled to the Detroit Free Press.
In mid-August, Marian High School terminated Webb after she refused to resign from her job of nine years.
“That you can’t hide a pregnancy from the public is why I was terminated,” she said.
The school had offered to provide health insurance through the spring semester if the teacher agreed to resign and not talk about why she was fired, she noted.
“I really felt like resigning was a lie; to me, that was willingly leaving,” Webb pointed out to the Free Press. “I was kind of compelled to just let people know the truth.”
Employment attorney Deborah Gordon told the paper that Webb had a strong case if she decided to sue because “pregnancy discrimination is flat-out illegal.”
Gordon explained that the school would argue that Webb violated the morality clause by getting pregnant in a marriage that was not recognized by the Catholic church.
“I would want to know if gender was a factor,” Gordon remarked. “Are there male teachers who have impregnated other people and the male is not married? The problem for the woman is you’re visibly pregnant.”
Attorney Larry Dublin told WXYZ that Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discriminating against women because they are pregnant.
“That’s considered to be discrimination based upon sex,” he said.
For her part, Webb hasn’t decided if she will sue the school.
“This is definitely not a crusade against the school,” Webb insisted. “This is so much more than me and Marian. It’s letting people know what type of social injustice is still happening.”
Watch the video below from WXYZ, broadcast Sept. 3, 2014.