Ohio’s Columbus Catholic schools office upheld a decision last week to fire teacher Carla Hale, whose same-gender partner became public in her mother’s obituary earlier this year. This most recent act comes after the Catholic teachers’ union refused to back Hale, but grassroots support grows as friends, family, and supporters nationwide speak out.
Superintendent Lucia McQuaide sent Hale a letter reaffirming the discriminatory firing, the contents of which were reported on by LGBTQ Nation. The “40-word, one paragraph letter” simply upheld the high school’s firing without acknowledging the surrounding controversy and was released by Hale’s lawyer to the media.
That lawyer, Thomas Tooley, called the superintendent’s letter just another step as Hale’s firing moves along in the legal system. Although LGBT employees are not protected under federal or state law, the City of Columbus does include a non-discrimination law for them and Hale has filed a complaint with the Community Relations Commission.
Hale’s daughter and partner spoke to The Columbus Dispatch, offering hope-filled words that justice will win out for this 19-year veteran educator:
“[Daughter Courtney] Hale said she and her two older brothers, along with the rest of their blended family, are standing behind their mom…
“ ‘I think it’s important for the public to see all of the support that she’s getting…hopefully, a change will come about with this, even if it’s not somebody changing their mind, just becoming more accepting and understanding.”
“[Hale’s] partner, Julie Uncapher, said she, too, hopes Hale’s fight brings about change — in Catholic-school contracts, for students and for other teachers in a similar situation. She said the Catholic school should ‘be able to open up, to accept and love thy neighbor like they state.’ “
With more than 130,00 signatures on the Change.org petition and an active #HaleStormOhio campaign, Hale has supporters outside Columbus too. One alum from Bishop Watterson High School wrote in to The New York Times that he mailed back his diploma over Hale’s firing.
His letter was a response to Frank Bruni’s column in The New York Times that speaks to the crux of this matter:
“No one at the Catholic high school that fired Carla Hale in March claimed that she was anything less than a terrific physical education teacher and coach, devoted to the kids and adored by many of them…
“And at a kitchen table here in central Ohio, a typically cheerful woman dabbed her eyes and wondered aloud what she’d done wrong.
“The answer is in one sense simple: she made a life with another woman.”
Meanwhile, The Columbus Dispatch also reported that an Ohio labor group is calling for the Columbus bishop to dialogue about work issues:
“The AFL-CIO in central Ohio has partnered with a grass-roots advocacy group to ask the Roman Catholic bishop of Columbus to participate in a panel discussion on the rights of gay people in workplaces, specifically faith-based workplaces.
“The union organization’s Pride @ Work Ohio constituency group and #halestormOhio made the request to Bishop Frederick Campbell yesterday in response to the Columbus diocese’s refusal to reinstate Carla Hale, a lesbian teacher who was fired from Bishop Watterson High School in Clintonville.”
The diocesan spokesperson said he had not seen the invitation, and was non-committal about a possible response from the bishop.
Developments in the case of Carla Hale case are more interesting now that an Ohio court rewarded a lesbian teacher fired in Cincinnati $170,000 for being unjustly fired from a Catholic high school there. Experts already speculated that Hale’s case would raise many questions about Church and State relations around employees. Closer to home, the Diocese of Columbus is in another controversy after asking a local politician to skip his commencement address at a local graduation because of his public support for marriage equality.
To read more about Bondings 2.0 reporting on Carla Hale, see the links below:
April 24, 2013: Fired Lesbian Teacher Offers Hope Through Vulnerability
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry