Gym instructor Carla Hale, 57, was fired last week after an anonymous parent wrote the Diocese of Columbus to complain because in an obituary for Hale’s mother, Hale was listed as a survivor alongside her longtime lesbian partner, Julie.
Now, Hale wants her job back. She has filed a grievance with the teachers’ union, and her lawyer, Thomas Tootle, told the Columbus Dispatch that if Hale’s union grievance does not succeed, her next step will be to sue under the city’s anti-discrimination law.
That means the diocesan officials who fired Hale may soon face legal action from the city of Columbus, fines, and possibly even jail time.
Columbus city law deems it a misdemeanor for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on sexual preference. It is also illegal for employers to have policies that discriminate based on sexual preference. There is no exemption for religious organizations or other employers who object to homosexuality on religious grounds. A guilty verdict carries penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The Diocese of Columbus refused to comment on the case, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.
Hale’s is the latest in a series of firings of Catholic school teachers who have publicly opposed Church teaching on homosexuality. Another Ohio Catholic high school teacher, Mike Moroski of Cincinnati, was let go in February after posting on his blog that he supports same-sex “marriage.” Rather than fight the diocese, Morski launched a political career. Al Fischer, an openly homosexual music teacher in St. Louis, was fired from a Catholic school and church last year after announcing he was traveling to New York to “marry” his same-sex partner.
Although none of those cases resulted in legal action, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in January that religious employees of religious organizations cannot sue for employment discrimination. The Court defined “religious employees” as “employees of religious organizations who have religious teaching authority.” Catholic school teachers seem likely to fall under this category, especially those who sign morality clauses promising to uphold the faith.
As of this writing, more than 40,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the Diocese of Columbus reinstate Hale’s employment and issue a public apology.