Students and supporters are rallying around a gay teacher recently fired from her job at a Catholic school, reportedly after local Catholic officials learned about her sexual orientation.
This week students found out about the firing of Carla Hale, a longtime teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, according to local news outlet Outlook Columbus. Two people familiar with the incident told Outlook that Hale was fired after her partner's name, Julie, was listed among the survivors in a public obituary for Hale's mother. The obituary ran in the Columbus Dispatch on Feb. 25.
Hale told the Dispatch an anonymous parent had seen the obituary and outed her to diocese officials. "Within weeks, Hale said, she was fired because she is in a gay relationship," the Dispatch wrote.
As news of the firing spread on Monday, a petition was posted on Change.org calling for the Diocese of Columbus to reinstate Hale. Signed by over 8,000 people already, the petition reads, in part:
Carla Hale, a beloved teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, was fired because of her sexuality. She was a teacher who cared for her students and treated each one with respect. The school, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her. Discrimination and injustice is something that we all have a duty to fight in today's society. It's unfair that someone who cared so much about her students and her job should lose them on the basis of something she cannot even control.
The petition was started by Jackson Garrity, a former student of Hale's.
"Well Ms. Hale was my cross country coach sophomore year and she was my physical education teacher this (my senior) year," Garrity told The Huffington Post in an email. "I started the petition because Ms. Hale was one of the favorite teachers at Watterson, not only one of my favorites, but also many other students. When news of her dismissal got out, many students were upset, especially because of the reason for her dismissal. We all wanted to let our opinions get out and tell the diocese that we were upset with the decision."
Garrity went on to say he had never witnessed this type of discrimination at Watterson before, despite the school taking Catholic stances on social issues. "That is why I was shocked when Ms. Hale was fired," he said.
Hale's lawyer is exploring her legal options.
Columbus is one of 29 cities in Ohio that has an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The official position of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in America is that marriage is the union between a man and a woman only. The Columbus Dispatch notes that teachers at Catholic schools in Columbus can be fired for "immorality" or "serious unethical conduct," according to a contract between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Columbus told HuffPost that "personnel matters are, however, by diocesan policy, confidential."
This is not the first time a teacher at an Ohio Catholic school has been let go over sexual orientation or support of gay rights. In February, Purcell Marian High School Assistant Principal Mike Moroski was fired by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after endorsing gay marriage in a personal blog post.
That same month, music teacher Al Fischer was fired from his job at St. Ann Catholic School in north St. Louis County, Mo., after archdiocese officials learned he was planning on marrying his longtime partner.