Imagine that your mother has just died. This is a difficult, emotional time. There’s so much to take care of: funeral arrangements, notifying friends and relatives, taking care of the estate. Not to mention grieving.
Now imagine that you’re a closeted lesbian at a Roman Catholic high school and there’s one more detail to take care of: putting an obituary in the paper. Do you mention your partner name in the obit? I mean, you’ve been a couple for 15 years. What could be the harm?
Well, if you’re physical education teacher Carla Hale, it turns out that the harm is pretty great. Not only had she just lost her mother, but also she was quickly fired from Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus Ohio, after 19 years, for being a lesbo after a parent brought the obituary to the attention of the school.
Which leads to the question: how big of an asshole do you have to be to run to the school with an obituary of a teacher’s mother in order to get her fired? Answer: not as big of an asshole as the administrators who actually fired her, but still, pretty big.
A statement from the Diocese of Columbus claimed, “Personnel who choose to publicly espouse relationships or principles that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot, ultimately, remain in the employ of the church.”
Oh, I see. The problem isn’t that she has a female partner, but that it got published in the newspaper. Got it. The Catholic Church prefers secrecy, which is evident in their handling of the insanely huge and far-reaching child sexual abuse scandal. Priests who rape kids can be shuffled from diocese to diocese so long as everybody stays quiet. But a gym teacher is found to be a lesbian and we’ve got to keep her away from kids – not because she’s been accused of any kind of abuse, but because her partner’s name is Julie and not John. Good one, Diocese of Columbus.
Look, when you’ve got a record like the Catholic Church on issues related to sexual impropriety and keeping kids safe, firing a lesbian teacher is not upholding morality, it’s sanctimonious bullshit.
Mind you, Hale is not an idiot. She knew that putting her partner’s name in the obit was a risk.
“[Julie] asked me if I really wanted to put her name in there,” Hale told the The Columbus Dispatch, “[but] my mom really loved Julie and Julie loved my mom and as I sat there with my brother, you know, it was like… his wife was mentioned, my niece’s husband was mentioned, so why not? Why not my person I love?”
And we all know how that turned out.
But the story isn’t over yet. After asking to be reinstated and being told “no homo,” Hale announced that she is filing a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission. In Columbus it is illegal for employers to fire someone just for being gay. There is also a Change.org petition asking for her reinstatement that has more than 103,000 signatures as I write this.
For her part, Hale is trying to keep a positive attitude. “This is happening for a reason and I have to be supporting of all of those that are standing up on my behalf,” Hale said at a press conference.
Referring to the outpouring of support she has received, Hale had a message for LGBTQ young people: “Hopefully, they’re seeing just the support and the love that’s out there, and it’s reassuring them that regardless of their sexual orientation…we all deserve the same equalities, and the world’s changing.”
Not nearly fast enough, but here’s to Hale for finding the courage to fight the good fight and leave the closet behind.