Her Mom's Obit Got Her Fired



In February, an 80-year-old Ohio woman died. Her obituary mentioned that she was survived by her daughter Carla Hale, as well as her daughter's partner, Julie. And with that, Carla says, she lost her job.

Hale is a longtime teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, a Catholic school in Columbus. An anonymous parent saw that Hale had listed the name of her female partner, and expressed her strong disapproval in a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Hale told the Columbus Dispatch. Soon after, she was fired.

In the past week, current and former students have rallied in support of Hale, who taught physical education at the school for 19 years, and a Change.org petition calling for her reinstatement has received over 12,700 signatures so far, almost all of them describing Hale as a mentor and role model.

More: Will Gay Marriage Change The American Workplace?

One girl, Samantha Pfaff, recalls the time that she told Hale that her sister was very ill, and Hale collected money from other teachers and students to give her family a basket of gifts.

Many of the comments also accuse the school of violating Catholic teachings of tolerance, respect and compassion. A March poll by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of American Catholics -- 54 percent -- support gay marriage, more than Americans overall. Fifty-two percent also said that church leaders were out of step with the views of Catholics in America today.

Hale is only the latest in a string of teachers who have been fired from Catholic schools for purported violations of church doctrine. In February, an assistant principal at another Ohio Catholic school reportedly was fired over comments that he made on his blog in support of gay marriage. And in March 2012, a music teacher at a Missouri Catholic school claimed he was fired for his plans to marry his gay partner of two decades.

More: Has The Time Come For Gay Rights In The Workplace?

It is completely legal under federal law to fire someone for being gay. However 21 states and many localities have laws and ordinances that prohibit employers from discriminating against their workers on the basis of sexual orientation. That includes Columbus, where Hale taught. But according to the Dispatch, the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators and the Columbus diocese have a contract that states that teachers can be terminated for "immorality" or "serious unethical conduct."

Even if discrimination against homosexuality was illegal in the workplace, Hale's firing might not be. In 2012, the Supreme Court determined that employment laws had a "ministerial exception." Because of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, religious institutions are allowed to discriminate against employees, as long as those employees are ministers. Who qualifies as a minister, however, wasn't precisely defined.

So the lawsuits started coming.

More: For Gay Americans, Lower Wages And Less Job Security, Studies Find

In April 2012, an Indiana woman sued a Catholic school for allegedly firing her for undergoing fertility treatments. She claimed that it was sex and disability discrimination, and that she wasn't exempt from the protection since she didn't teach religious classes, have a religious title, wasn't ordained and wasn't required to have religious training. And in February a San Diego woman sued the Christian college where she had worked as an administrator after she was fired for being pregnant before marriage.

Hale's attorney told the Dispatch that they're considering legal options. In the meantime, Hale has just been coping with the overwhelming response. "It's amazing that they've come together and rallied around this situation," she said. "I'm in awe of them."


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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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jimrobtaz

If she was able to keep it from her employer for that long, she shouldn't have to.then she was playing by their rules. She should, of course, get her job back. With a raise and back pay.

June 09 2013 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
j4bs4209333

I am surprised that sexual orientation is not a protected class under federal employment laws. It's sickening that this woman was fired for a reference to her personal life written in her mother's obituary, but the kiddie loving gay priests were just relocated.

June 05 2013 at 1:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick

Her mother's death didn't get her fired. She and her supporters are playing the "Homosexual Card" in believing that she did nothing wrong and that the law supports her position She breached her employment contract which she freely agreed to when she was hired. Don't try to make the Catholic Church out to be the bad guy in this situation. She and her supporters are teaching people that it is alright to lie and deceive others.

April 24 2013 at 1:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Christine S

Loses her mom, then loses her job. Nice, Bishop Watterson HS. Hope you're glad what you got in the news for.

April 23 2013 at 9:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Snow Horton

Sorry but more disturbing here is how a news program cannot spell "anonymous." Maybe they need to go to that Catholic school.

April 22 2013 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cuddlewuggles

This Catholic school really is wrong for firing this teacher. Just can't believe how the Catholic church and school make their own rules. What about all of their Gay priest. I'm Catholic but I certainly don't like all of their teaching. I'm really considfering leaving the Church. Many of their priest raped little boys and all they got was a slap on the wrist. I have gay realitives and gay friends. They are all very nice caring people. Really doesn't matter who you sleep with as long as you love and respect that person. This teacher should be reinstated immediately.

April 21 2013 at 5:08 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cuddlewuggles's comment
j4bs4209333

I never understood the child molesting priest thing. Not only are they child molesters, but they're gay child molesters. Isn't that a double whammy under the immoral clause? Yet they got away with it.

June 05 2013 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Too many young punks running the HR in businesses abusing older workers while they let their young friends do as they please.

April 21 2013 at 2:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Some employers allow their managers to abuse and fire workers over age 55 perhaps they got young punks from the ghetto running while in HR.

April 21 2013 at 2:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
lesatlesa

Huh? My company's HR dept is full of young blondes and they get rid of workers over age 45 all the time. Where are they supposed to be from?

June 09 2013 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jonever

it is legal for churches to descriminate and fire homosexuals because of the first ammendment. they have the right to terminate a citizens job because of the citizens sexual preference yet make money and not have to pay taxes for following a sky god? this goes to show you how unevolved and unlighted america really is. i feel badly for this woman.

April 20 2013 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mountainlora

The Catholic exception is for "... "immorality" or "serious unethical conduct..." NOT for being gay.

Since when is having a long-term monogamous relationship unethical or immoral? Sounds like a pretty weak leg to take a stand on.

April 20 2013 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mountainlora's comment
briqhtonturn

More than that, how dare they presume any relationship at all? Peeking in the windows were they? Same for he moraliy... they are guessing.

April 20 2013 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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