Legal Cases

Among the more than seventy church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related disputes since 2007, at least a dozen have pursued legal action against the Catholic institution(s) which ended their employment. Below are settled and pending legal cases, both in the U.S. and internationally, with links provided for more information.

Supportive Legal Decisions

“Silvia” won a discrimination case in Italy against the Catholic school which had fired her based on rumors about her sexual orientation. L’Istituto Sacro Cuore in Trent had to pay financial damages to the teacher, a labor union, and a civil rights association.

Matthew Barrett won a lawsuit against Fontbonne Academy in Massachusetts in 2015. A state judge ruled Barrett had been discriminated against after his employment contract to be the school’s food services director was withdrawn when Barrett listed his husband as an emergency contact. The judge rejected claims that Barrett’s employment was covered under the ministerial exemption afforded to religious employers, which would have exempted Fontbonne Academy from the state’s nondiscrimination protections. Instead of appealing the decision, the school settled with Barrett.

Fired teacher Christa Dias won a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after a jury found she had been discriminated against when a Catholic school fired her for becoming pregnant by artificial insemination. She was awarded $171,000 damages in 2013.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that fired educator Flint Dollar had “reasonable cause” to sue Mount de Sales Academy in Georgia, which fired him for marrying a man, despite the fact that the school had nondiscrimination policies on sexual orientation and marital status. Dollar later settled out of court with the school.

Settled Cases

Shaela Evenson filed a federal lawsuit against the Diocese of Helena and Butte Central Catholic High School claiming pregnancy and sex discrimination, as well as breach of contract. Evenson, who is a lesbian woman, was fired for becoming pregnant outside marriage. She reached a private settlement ahead of a scheduled trial in March 2016.

Colleen Simon, fired as a parish’s social ministries coordinator for being married to a woman, settled with the Diocese of Kansas City in 2015 for an undisclosed amount after a judge ruled Simon’s lawsuit could have proceeded to a jury trial.

Carla Hale reached a private settlement with the Diocese of Columbus after she was fired as a Catholic high school’s physical education teacher when her partner’s name was listed in an obituary for Hale’s mother.

A judge allowed Marla Krolikowski’s lawsuit against St. Francis Preparatory High School in Queens, New York, to go forward after the school attempted to have the case dismissed. The judge disputed the school’s claim that Krolikowski was fired for insubordination after 32 years teaching, a firing that happened shortly after she announced her gender transition. She later reached a private settlement with the school.

Fired transgender teacher Jan Buterman has filed complaints against the publicly-funded Catholic school system in Alberta, Canada which fired Buterman for transitioning. A judge ruled that the Alberta Human Rights Commission should hear the discrimination case. Eventually, another judge ruled Buterman’s case would not proceed.

Pending Cases

John Murphy filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after he was fired as the executive director of a Richmond, Virginia-area assisted living facility.

Sandra Pavez, a public school religion teacher fired for being a partnered lesbian, will have her discrimination case against Chile’s government heard by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, potentially ending a decade of legal battles and reforming Chilean employment law.

Sandor Demkovich filed discrimination complaints against the Archdiocese of Chicago with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights after being fired as parish music director for marrying his husband.

Colin Collette had filed discrimination complaints against the Archdiocese of Chicago with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Cook County Commission on Human Rights after being fired as parish music director when he became engaged to his husband. After gaining permission from the EEOC to do so, Collette filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese and Holy Family Catholic Church in March 2015. Two years later, Collette’s lawsuit was dismissed by a judge on the grounds that the defendants had religious exemptions.

Two former guidance counselors at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, Shelly Fitzgerald and Lynn Starkey, have filed discrimination lawsuits against the school which dismissed them because they were in same-gender marriages.

Joshua Payne-Elliott has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which forced Payne-Elliott’s former employer, Cathedral High School, to fire him because of his same-gender marriage.