A Catholic high school in Indianapolis is facing its second anti-LGBT discrimination complaint after a church worker’s filing with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Shelly Fitzgerald filed her complaint with EEOC earlier this month against Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. This filing is the first step towards any potential lawsuit. WFYI reported:
“Fitzgerald first announced her intention to sue at a press conference in November. There she laid out her requests including Archdiocese of Indianapolis change its contracts for employees by allowing staff to be in same-sex marriages; extend spousal benefits to employees in a same-sex marriage; offer jobs to former LGBT employees fired by the Archdiocese due to the current contract. . .
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will review the charge –– this process takes an average of 10 months. If approved, Fitzgerald can file a lawsuit in federal court.
“However, commission investigators may also recommend Fitzgerald, Roncalli, and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis continue negotiations outside of a courtroom.”
Fitzgerald’s lawyer, David Page, is cautiously optimistic that the Commission will allow the lawsuit to proceed:
“‘If this were about dollars and cents this case would probably have a pretty good chance at getting resolved. . .But, it’s about fundamental policy changes that she is seeking in order to ensure others are treated fairly.'”
Last August, administrators at Roncalli gave Fitzgerald the choice of divorcing her wife or losing her job, but ended up placing her on paid administrative leave while the situation was adjudicated. The school administrators and the Archdiocese claimed the counselor knew of Church expectations due to a “morality clause” in her contract. Against the discrimination filing, the Archdiocese’s statement denied discriminating against Fitzgerald, saying she “acknowledged that she breached her contract” by being married to a woman.
Fitzgerald’s complaint is the second EEOC filing against Roncali. Lynn Starkey claimed she was in a hostile work environment after her co-worker was placed on leave and the school’s principal inquired about Starkey’s civil union with a woman.
Already, Fitzgerald’s case has prompted a number of positive outcomes. She appeared on The Ellen Show last year, bringing national attention to her case. Locally, students have organized in her defense, wearing rainbow gear at school and forming a group, Shelly’s Voice, to promote LGBT inclusion.
A state representative has filed legislation to deny school vouchers to private institutions which discriminate. Roncalli High School received $1.5 million in state funds in 2018. Fitzgerald’s next step seeking legal redress will hopefully bring positive results for the cause of LGBT equality and church worker justice.
In the last decade, more than 80 church workers have gone public about losing their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes. You can find a full listing of these incidents here, as well as New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBT issues here. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click the “Employment” category on the right-hand side of this page.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 15, 2019