It is one of the ugly truths about being LGBT in America: in 29 states, we can be fired, evicted, and denied basic public services. Up that number to 34 states if you happen to be transgender. Carla Hale, a now former gym teacher at Bishop Watterson Catholic School in Columbus, Ohio, has just found this out first hand. Hale says that she was in “total shock. Like your legs had just been cut out from under you” when she received the letter from the Principal. Hale says of the March 28 incident:
“I turned to the principal and I said, ‘Are we talking like immediately? Am I supposed to leave the building?’ And she just, she said, ‘Yes.’”
Now, the one thing that might help her get her job back is that the school violated the Columbus non-discrimination policy, which does not allow for religious exemptions under the law. So, in other words, Hale has a case. Napolean Bell, who directs the Community Relations Commission in Columbus, says:
There is not that exemption. It applies to any agency or business that employs four people or more.”
And so it should. The other good news is that some 7,000 supporters of the long- time gym teacher have signed an online petition asking the school and the Columbus Diocese, who wrote the termination letter that so shocked Hale, to give the teacher her job back.
Perhaps the most sickening thing is how this all went down. Hale says that her mother died, and her partner’s name was listed under survivors in the obituary. An anonymous letter was written to the Diocese, explaining that Hale was in a lesbian partnership. Hale says of the letter:
“To use my mom’s obituary, her death, to write this letter. And, honestly, we wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for her death, nor if my partner’s name was Chris.”’
I agree wholeheartedly. If they had not been able to guess the gender of Hale’s partner by simply reading the name, none of this would have ever happened. That is evident by the fact that Hale has taught at the school for more than 20 years, and only shared her orientation with a few close peers. She kept her private life private, and it wasn’t an issue until someone decided to play morality police anonymously.
Now, my personal opinion is that, given the climate of hate coming from the Catholic Church with regards to LGBT people, it is risky at best and downright masochistic at worst to ever accept employment or anything else from them. There is always going to be the risk that things end badly. However, I salute brave people like Ms. Hale for doing what they love fearlessly, and for taking that risk. Now, hopefully, the Columbus Diocese will obey the law and give her her job back, and, if they don’t, hopefully a lawsuit follows. Good luck, Ms. Hale. Those kids need more teachers like you.
Read the story here on WOSU.