COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A Catholic high school teacher says she was fired because she’s gay, and now thousands are trying to help her get her job back with an online petition.
Carla Hale, the former physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, talked about why she was fired and what may be next.
Hale said she was fired after 19 years, after an obituary for her mother listed the name of a woman as Hale’s partner.
“I was totally shocked. I mean, I think it was just one of those where everything was drained out of me,” Hale said.
There are more than 7,000 names on a petition, asking the school to rehire Hale, and now there are possibilities that someone could face criminal charges in her dismissal.
“Bishop Watterson is an amazing place to be, with the staff, the faculty, it’s a very positive environment,” she said. “If it wouldn’t have been for my mom’s obituary and my partner’s name being Julie and not Chris or Pat or whomever, I wouldn’t be in this situation right now. It would be Wednesday, 8th period, badminton tournament,” she said.
After the obituary, Hale said, she was called into an office and told that an anonymous parent had complained.
Then, on Holy Thursday, she was fired for what is known as Diocesan Policy 45116.1, which states that Catholic school personnel are expected to be examples of moral behavior and her spousal relationship violates the moral laws.
“They’re probably honestly wouldn’t be a lot of teachers working here because if you go there, the Catholic Church doesn’t promote divorce, living with a heterosexual partner out of marriage, birth control,” Hale said.
Since her termination, a petition has started, which includes many former students supporting Hale.
There could be legal ramifications.
Hale’s attorney is exploring whether to file a complaint with the city.
“In most parts of the state, it is perfectly legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. We’re fortunate in Columbus to have a municipal ordinance that was passed in 2008 that does protect people and there are no exceptions in that ordinance for religious institutions,” said Hale’s attorney, Tom Tootle.
The Columbus Community Relations Commissions would take up the issue if a complaint is filed.
The charge would be a misdemeanor, and would be filed against the person who fired Hale, according to commission Director Napolean Bell.
Hale’s termination notice was signed by Bishop Watterson Principal Marian Hutson.
A Columbus Diocese representative would not comment on the case, claiming it is a personnel issue.