The running controversy over LGBT people being fired from jobs in Catholic schools and parishes has mostly quieted down in the last month. That silence, though, is probably due more to the fact that schools are on break and parishes are in “lite” mode for the summer than because of any moratorium on firings.
The topic surfaced again this week with news that one fired teacher is filing an equal opportunity claim against the Catholic school that fired him.
Flint Dollar, who was fired from his job as a music teacher at Mount de Sales Academy, Macon, Georgia, when it was learned that he intended to marry a man.
Dollar has had a difficult time seeking legal recourse in this situation. This week, his lawyer announced that they found grounds to make a legal case against the school. National Public Radio reports:
Since neither federal law nor state law in Georgia expressly forbids employers from discriminating against gays, it initially seemed like there was nothing Dollar could do. But Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which turned 50 this week, does prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Dollar’s lawyer, Charles Cox, sees an opening there.
“When you fire somebody because they are engaging in a same-sex marriage, I think that pretty clearly fits with gender discrimination,” Cox says. “You’re being fired because you’re not complying with traditional gender stereotypes, and that’s wrong, and we believe it’s unlawful.”
Though this strategy has been tried before in courts and failed, there is hope in this case because of a legal precedent set in April of this year:
“. . . [A] judge in Washington made a ruling in a lawsuit brought by federal employee Peter TerVeer. TerVeer claims his supervisor at the Library of Congress made his work life miserable because TerVeer is gay.
“LGBT rights attorney Greg Nevins, who is helping with TerVeer’s case, explains how TerVeer sued under Title VII:
” ‘His romantic or intimate interest in men is something that the women workers at the office were not penalized for, but he was,’ Nevins says. ‘He made that claim in federal district court, and the court allowed it to proceed, despite a motion to dismiss by the Department of Justice.’ ”
“Now the TerVeer case is giving hope to people like Dollar. He’s filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, alleging sex discrimination.”
The Georgia Voice also notes another precedent that Dollar’s lawyer raised:
“Cox also cites Glenn v. Brumby, the Eleventh Circuit court case from 2011 which found that the Georgia General Assembly fired activist Vandy Beth Glenn due to her being transgender, which was a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution that protects against gender discrimination.
“ ‘The same thing applies to same-sex marriage because that’s not conforming to traditional gender stereotypes,’ Cox says.”
The Dollar case has sparked a variety of commentary examining some of the moral questions involved in the action of firing. Back in June, David Oedel, a law professor, wrote about some of the ironies of the case:
“In its employee handbook and website, the school articulates policies of nondiscrimination as to ‘sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,’ ‘marital status’ and ‘any other characteristic or status that is protected by federal, state, or local law.’
“Federal law protects the right to travel to other states and avail oneself of the benefits of other states’ laws, so the school apparently accepts Dollar’s right to go to Minnesota, join in a same-sex marriage, and have that marriage honored by federal law. Georgia doesn’t legally have to respect such a marriage, and neither did Mount de Sales — until the school adopted its nondiscrimination policy and made promises to Dollar.
“There’s little ambiguity about Roman Catholic teachings on promise-keeping. The church endorses keeping promises, such as those between church-married partners and, presumably, promises Mount de Sales apparently made to Dollar to hire and retain Dollar despite his sexual orientation, committed relationship and marriage plans.”
The school’s action is surprising to Oedel, given the progressive history of the institution:
“It wouldn’t have been a stretch for Dollar to take the school at its word because the school is known in Macon as a path-breaking institution. Mount de Sales was the first school here publicly to educate those of various faiths, first to integrate and first to embrace such a wide-open nondiscrimination policy. From some national press, though, you’d think the school is a regressive horror-chamber.”
And the contradiction goes even deeper:
“One wonders what St. Francis de Sales, for whom the school is named, would think. Francis famously advocated charity over penance. Where is Christ’s charity in firing Dollar now?”
For comprehensive coverage of all the firings, click on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” box in the right-hand column of this page. You can find a complete list of fired employees on this blog’s “Catholicism, Employment, & LGBT Issues” page.
The Telegraph: “Fired Mount de Sales band director files EEOC claim”
The Telegraph: “Bigotry, prejudice and grace”