Catholic Schools Increasingly Seek to Shove LGBT Employees Back Into The Closet

by Charles Joughin

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today condemned another Catholic school firing of LGBT employees and cited it as more evidence of the church’s efforts to shove these workers - and potentially thousands of others - back in the closet.

“There is a sad and troubling narrative of increasing discrimination by Catholic institutions against LGBT Americans, including and especially those who legally marry or come out,” said Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives at the HRC Foundation. “These discriminatory actions extend from Oakland to Kansas City to Cincinnati, from Chicago to Atlanta, and are occurring with alarming frequency.”

The recent firings of two lesbian Catholic high school teachers in St. Louis after they legally married in New York is just the latest in a string of more than a dozen similar situations reported this year alone in which LGBT employees, as well as employees who support LGBT equality efforts, have been fired, forced out, or had offers rescinded by Catholic schools across the nation. Reported cases this year already exceed the 13 publicly documented in 2013.

“This most recent case in St. Louis is particularly egregious because the teachers were widely known to be a couple and punished only when they exercised their civil right to marry,” Melendez Rivera said.

This week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambara were fired from their jobs at Cor Jesu Academy after school officials said they learned of the couples’ marital status upon receiving a copy of their mortgage application.

“No doubt, there are countless other LGBT employees at Catholic schools who have experienced similar discrimination, but whose stories remain unheard and unreported,” Melendez Rivera said. “ “The veil of the Catholic schools’ ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy has fallen away; the days of the witch hunts are not over  - at least in many Catholic schools.”

Many alumnae of the all-girls school in St. Louis have rallied around the fired teachers, and pledged to stop donating to the schools.

“We at the HRC Foundation commend those who have spoken out and taken action in support of Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambara,” Melendez Rivera said. “And we urge Catholic schools engaging in discriminatory practices to heed the words of Pope Francis: ‘When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.’”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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