A Catholic high school in Georgia is facing a legal complaint from a former teacher whose contract was not renewed after it was discovered through Facebook that, contrary to Catholic teaching, “he plans to marry a man,” National Public Radio reports.
The school, Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, reportedly “released a statement saying they have to consider an employee’s ability to teach Catholic doctrine when making staff decisions.”
Former teacher Flint Dollar is reportedly “working to change” federal anti-discrimination laws which do not prohibit employers “from hiring or firing people on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Since neither federal law nor state law in Georgia expressly forbids employers from discriminating against gays, it initially seemed like there was nothing Dollar could do. But Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which turned 50 this week, does prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Dollar's lawyer, Charles Cox, sees an opening there.
“When you fire somebody because they are engaging in a same-sex marriage, I think that pretty clearly fits with gender discrimination,” Cox says. “You're being fired because you're not complying with traditional gender stereotypes, and that's wrong, and we believe it's unlawful.”
Enterprising lawyers have been making that argument since at least the 1990s, and federal courts have been saying “nice try” just as long. But in April, a judge in Washington made a ruling in a lawsuit brought by federal employee Peter TerVeer. TerVeer claims his supervisor at the Library of Congress made his work life miserable because TerVeer is gay.
An attorney assisting with TerVeer’s case reportedly said that, “His romantic or intimate interest in men is something that the women workers at the office were not penalized for, but he was… He made that claim in federal district court, and the court allowed it to proceed, despite a motion to dismiss by the Department of Justice.”
Dollar has “filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, alleging sex discrimination,”according to NPR.
Over the past two years, a number of Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have announced updated contracts for teachers in order to better reflect expectations in light of the Catholic identity of Catholic schools. Dioceses to announce such changes include Cincinnati, Honolulu, Oakland and Santa Rosa.
Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.