A second employee at a Catholic high school has been terminated for being in a same-gender relationship following her nearly 40 years of service.
Guidance counselor Lynn Starkey will not have her contract renewed for the 2019-2020 school year at Roncalli High School, Indianapolis. Her lawyer, Kathleen Delaney, told WFYI that Starkey had been “waiting and watching and looking over her shoulder” for the moment when she would be suspended or terminated.
Starkey filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Oppportunity Commissioon (EEOC) last November. She claimed she was being subjected to a hostile work environment after her co-worker, Shelly Fitzgerald, was placed on leave for being in a same-gender marriage and Roncalli’s principal began inquiring about Starkey’s own relationship. Starkey is planning to sue Roncalli High and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as well.
The Indianapolis Star reported on some of the precipitating causes for the dismissal:
“Attorney Kathleen Delaney said she will amend a discrimination charge Starkey filed in November with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] to include the fact that Starkey is losing her job.
“‘Starkey’s 39 years of exemplary employment, including teacher of the year recognition in 2009, will end because she is in a same-sex marriage and because she filed discrimination complaints,’ DeLaney said Monday in an emailed statement. . .
“‘We are shocked and saddened that Roncalli and the archdiocese [of Indianapolis] have targeted this exemplary guidance counselor for discriminatory and retaliatory enforcement of church doctrine.'”
In August 2018, the high school’s administrators had given Fitzgerald the choice of divorcing her wife or losing her job for breaching the “morality clause” in her contract. Fitzgerald has since filed her own EEOC complaint. In January 2019, Roncalli barred Fitzgerald’s father, Pat, from participating in the senior retreat on which he has assisted for decades.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is again in the position of defending discrimination. Spokesperson Greg Otolski said that because Starkey “could not in good faith enter into the [2019-2020] contract so long as she is unable to abide by the terms of the contract,” which would require dissolving her civil union. Church officials are relying on the much disputed “morality clauses” inserted into many church workers’ contracts which tend to focus on issues of gender and sexuality.
But students, parents, and alumni of Roncalli High have rejected such discrimination. Students organized in Fitzgerald’s defense last year, wearing rainbow gear at school and forming a group, Shelly’s Voice, to promote LGBT inclusion. Catholic reform groups have released statements of support. Fitzgerald even appeared on The Ellen Show.
Sadly, Church officials have made it necessary for the Roncalli community to once again stand against discrimination. How much more harm those officials will seek to cause to LGBTQ employees, to students and the wider community, and to the Church is unknown. Until they stop, however, bring out the rainbow gear and the protests. Lynn Starkey must be shown the affirmation and support she rightly earned for nearly 40 years of service.
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, March 27, 2019