Catholic High School Coach Resigns After Parent Complaint Over Same-Gender Marriage

Gabrielle MacKinnon, left, with other Notre Dame Academy rowing coaches

A rowing coach at a Catholic high school in Ohio has resigned after a parent complained about the coach’s same-gender marriage, according to The Toledo Blade.

Gabrielle MacKinnon coached rowing at Notre Dame Academy, Toledo, for three years, and was a successful leader in the athletics program. As with many LGBTQ+ employees at Catholic schools, MacKinnon worried that her marriage could draw the attention of LGBTQ-negative parents or administrators. That concern became a reality in early November. The Blade explained:

“Rowing head coach Catherine Sprague-Manrow informed her [MacKinnon]. . .  that a parent contacted Notre Dame Athletic Director Gary Snyder…It turns out, someone was concerned that one of the school coaches was in a same-sex marriage.”

MacKinnon was not sure whether she would be able to continue coaching without drawing negative attention from the parent who issued the complaint or the school, so she resigned. She sent a letter to the school and the students involved with rowing, along with their parents, explaining the circumstances of her resignation. As MacKinnon describes it:

“‘I just figured, “Might as well say it: I am gay. I am proud.” And, you know, that’s just who I am.'”

Students and parents responded with an outpouring of support for MacKinnon. The school’s director of athletics also voiced his support, and emphasized that he did not ask her to resign. In a letter to the rowing team he stated:

“‘I know that many of you are surprised, saddened, and angry that Coach Gabbey resigned and for the reason that she resigned…I too was surprised and saddened to receive her resignation.'”

Notre Dame Academy’s statement said only that MacKinnon resigned because of ‘personnel issues,’ with no other explanation.

MacKinnon, who was raised Catholic and attended Notre Dame Academy, is hurt and frustrated that her tenure as a coach was cut short by an unwelcoming atmosphere in the church. She explained:

“‘As someone who grew up Catholic, attended Notre Dame, and rowed for the school before graduating from there in 2011, she said it’s hurtful that she’s been made to feel that she isn’t accepted because of who she’s married to.'”

Diane Hsia, a parent involved in the rowing program, voiced frustration that the school did not take further steps to support MacKinnon, and underscored that the school’s inclusion statement states to welcomes those of all sexual orientations. She does not feel that the school has remained committed to its inclusivity document.  She said:

“‘As parents, we want to understand what led to how this all even came up, and [they] need to explain this inclusion statement to us…This doesn’t feel like inclusion.'”

Hsia has yet to receive a response from the school.

The Diocese of Toledo stated that its schools do not discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the diocesan statement added:

“If it is a public matter and it is in direct conflict with the teachings, then we would definitely have a conversation about it and…whether it’s appropriate to continue employment with a Catholic institution.

“We don’t discriminate on sexual orientation. The Catholic teaching is that the marriage is between a man and a woman, and that’s where the conversation arises.”

MacKinnon’s resignation is not the first controversy regarding LGBTQ+ identity which has occurred at the school. In 2013, Brittanie Kuhr, a graduate of the school who had been invited to speak to students, was later disinvited after the school learned that she was engaged to a woman. In 2019, students were forced to leave a production of The Nutcracker early because of a presence of a same-gender couple in the cast, for which the school later issued an apology.

The church has long stood for the dignity of workers. The Diocese of Toledo and Notre Dame Academy have failed to live up to this Catholic tradition by subjecting LGBTQ+ employees to a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’-style policy which forces queer people to work in fearful silence. We pray that the church will work for the greater glory of God by recognizing the value of LGBTQ+ employees in all dioceses and schools.

Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 2, 2022

2 replies
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Catholic High School Coach Resigns After Parent Complaint Over Same-Gender Marriage

    It is exactly for situations like these that the Church has to ultamately recognize all legal civil marriages even if they do not consider them to be “sacramental.” And that includes divorced and remarriad couples.

    For now Andru, your final paragraph is the only way we have to go to make change happen. Come Holy Spirit.

  2. Maria
    Maria says:

    This is what I’d so disappointing to me about the Catholic Church. Welcoming to all with a huge asterisk for double-standards.


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