A gay teacher who was fired by an Ohio Catholic school over her sexual orientation is fighting back, but so far the odds are stacked against her. Carla Hale was a gym teacher at Bishop Watterson High School before her orientation was exposed and she was subsequently terminated. Now, she's appealing to city officials and her union in an effort to get her job back.
Hale, 57, complained to the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, the Associated Press reports, but the union for Catholic teachers is not supporting her fight to be reinstated -- dealing quite a blow to her efforts. In addition to filing this grievance, the former teacher has also gone to the City of Columbus, as firing employees based on sexual orientation is against employment policy.
Despite local ordinances, this could be an uphill battle for Hale, especially considering that the ministerial exemption at the federal level allows religious organizations the power to hire and fire, using faith as a parameter. While there is still some unsettled territory regarding who is included under this measure, her fight, if she chooses to pursue it, likely won't be an easy one.
The former teacher was terminated after her partner's name was mentioned in her mother's obituary. Someone noticed it and complained and, considering that Bishop Watterson High School is a Catholic institution, Hale's termination ensued. While she maintains she was fired over her orientation, the school claims that it was her relationship with a woman -- a same-sex romance that violates church teaching -- at the center of the dismissal.
Carla Hale delivers a statement confirming her firing from Bishop Watterson High School during a press conference at Stonewall Columbus on April 24, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. Hale was recently fired from Bishop Watterson H.S. for being in a gay relationship. She plans to file a complaint this week with the city of Columbus, which prohibits firings based on sexual orientation, her attorney said Monday, April 29, 2013. Credit: AP
NBC News has more about how the incident unfolded:
Hale was summoned to a meeting with school administrators after she returned from her mother’s funeral.
At the meeting, she received a copy of her mother’s obituary that she and her brother had written. In addition, administrators gave Hale an anonymous letter from a parent calling the presence of a lesbian teacher at the school disgrace.
Hale was subsequently dismissed from Bishop Watterson Catholic High School after 19 years of service, with the school citing a morality provision in the contract between teachers and the diocese.
In speaking about her career, Hale noted that she isn't looking for fame or money. Instead, she said she loves her job and is simply hoping to be reinstated.
Carla Hale a teacher who was recently fired from Bishop Watterson H.S. for being in a gay relationship, poses for a portrait in her mothers home in Powell, Ohio on April 17, 2013. Credit: AP
“I've committed my 19-year professional career to one thing -- ensuring that our next generation achieves its full potential," she said, according to NBC News. "I love my job, I don't want money, I don't want fame, I simply want to return to Bishop Watterson."
As of today, more than 127,000 signatories signed a petition calling for the diocese to "Reinstate faculty member Carla Hale and apologize for discriminating against her on the basis of sexuality."