Fired for Being Gay or Not Being Willing to Lie?

4 years ago

It happens with regularity: Another beloved, high-performing employee is fired because someone's discriminatory panties get in a twist. Today's example: After 19 years as a physical education teacher for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Carla Hale was fired last month after an anonymous parent complained to the school that she had listed her female partner's name in her mother's obituary.

Buzzfeed reports that the firing from her job at Bishop Watterson High School came days after the diocese was notified of the obituary. Hale told NBC, "I was totally shocked. I mean, I think it was just one of those where everything was drained out of me."

Image: dave_mcmtphoto via Flickr

When I heard about this story, I thought, Here we go again -- another gay or lesbian fired because they simply did what any other long-term spouse would do, mention that they have a partner. Hale told NBC that she took her brother's advice to list her partner's name in the obituary; NBC reports that the grievance she filed was denied because her contract states that "personnel who choose to publicly espouse relationships or principles that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot, ultimately, remain in the employ of the Church."

FOX News in Columbus quotes Hale's termination letter as saying, "Your written spousal relationship violates the moral laws of the Catholic Church" and the written response to her grievance claim as saying, "Documents support termination. You were not terminated for being gay, but for the spousal relationship publicized in the newspaper which is against church teachings."

The Examiner reports that the diocese has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and could not ignore Hale's spousal relationship once they learned of it -- basically, that it was her decision to put the information about her relationship in the paper that was the trouble.

So, the church is OK with lying, but not a subtle, traditional mention of one's partner. It's not like Hale was out committing lewd acts in public; she mentioned her long-term partner in her mother's obituary. As someone who lost her own mom three years ago, I can tell you that the last thing on your mind is whether some small-minded clown is scouring the obituaries looking for ways to take someone down in their time of distress. "Treat others with kindness as you'd like to be treated." That's what I was taught. The Bible seems to believe in that theme as well:

Luke 6:31: And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Perhaps my personal favorite description of religion that I ever heard was given by Carolyn Myss: "Religion is the politics of God." Many Christians feel there is a huge chasm between what the Bible says (and what is really intended), and what actually takes place in practice within churches of all denominations. So, is Hale's firing a matter of policy? Religion? Discrimination? Or something else entirely?

Now, I wasn't born yesterday. I was well aware during all my terms of employment that it is perfectly legal to fire someone in the state of Pennsylvania because he or she is gay. I chose to live my life openly anyway. The choice to be "out" is personal, but the right to be respected as a person, in my opinion, is not optional. For all the advances in rights and acceptance, we find ourselves circling the wagons once again on yet another installment of "fired for being gay" -- or, whatever, for being gay AND having a partner AND ever mentioning her name. I wonder if this will end in my lifetime.

It does get better: Students, parents, and friends alike really cherish their teacher. A petition for Hale's reinstatement was signed by over 60,000 people. A Facebook page in support of her has taken off, and students are speaking out publicly in outrage -- many protested at the school today. I wish them, and Hale, all the luck in the world.

And the Examiner post I mentioned earlier goes on to point out that the diocese's policy is directly in opposition to local law:

The quandary is that Bishop Watterson High School is located in the city of Columbus, and state and local tax money is made available to students attending the school. The city has an ordinance that declares discrimination due to sexual orientation to be unlawful. The Diocese says that same-gender relationships go against the teachings of the church.

Hale's lawyer noted in a press conference yesterday that he is filing a discrimination complaint with Columbus’ Community Relations Commission.

I wish her luck.

So, how do you handle the contradictions ever-present in situations like these?

How do you feel about the ongoing "splitting hairs" that happen to protect or advance the agendas of employers, organizations, or institutions at the expense of everyday people's lives?

Do you feel you need to lie, hide, or otherwise be someone you are not in order to protect your job?

I would love to hear what you have to say.

Paula Gregorowicz plucks women business owners off the hamster wheel of overwhelm, struggle, and self-doubt and guides them to a purposeful path of building authentic and successful businesses using a unique blend of practical action and inner awareness called Intuitive Intelligence®.
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