A gay guidance counselor suspended from a Catholic high school is pushing to change the policy of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis that bans employees who are in same-sex marriages – even though she signed a contract stating she understood the expectations of employees of the Catholic archdiocese.
Shelly Fitzgerald said she was suspended from her job as a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School, a Catholic school that is overseen by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana, after it was discovered she had “married” another woman.
A report at ABC affiliate rtv6 stated Fitzgerald posted to her Facebook account:
Someone sought out my marriage certificate from Hancock County and turned it into Joe Hollowell (the school’s chief administrator). He then turned it over to the Archbishop of Indianapolis, the superintendent and Chuck Weisenbach [Roncalli school principal].”
The report continues that Fitzgerald, who had been employed at the school for 15 years, says she met with the school’s administrator and principal and was given the options of resigning, “dissolving” her marriage, or “wait it out and stay quiet and maybe I can make it the rest of the year, but they will not renew my contract next year.”
“I love my wife very much,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t have any intention to resign a job that I adore. For me to walk out was like saying I didn’t want to be there anymore and that wasn’t the case.”
Indiana state Rep. Dan Forestal, a Democrat, said he will intervene in the case by trying to block schools whose religious beliefs oppose same-sex marriage from receiving taxpayer voucher funds.
According to the report:
Roncalli is a private school but they also receive state funding through Indiana’s School Choice Voucher program. An annual report from the Indiana Department of Education shows that the school received more than $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars last year.
“Roncalli should not be rewarded with state dollars if they choose to discriminate against employees simply based on who they love,” Forestal said.
As Fox59 reported, Fitzgerald has hired an attorney, David Page, who refused to give details about his client’s signed contract due to the possibility of future litigation.
“In a statement, the Catholic school has said as role models for students, the personal conduct of every teacher, guidance counselor, administrator and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the report continued.
Page said his client was barred from the campus and her school email account.
“[S]he was heartbroken and stunned,” Page said. “Stunned is the word she uses most often.”
The attorney added that everyone at the school knew she was gay.
Fitzgerald has received an outpouring of support via an online petition signed by over 15,000 supporters.
The petition states:
After a nosey member of the community found out Shelly Fitzgerald was married and informed her employer, she was called into the office. Not because they wanted to congratulate her on her previously unknown marriage, but because they wanted to fire her.
For 15 years, Shelly has worked as a guidance counselor at Roncalli High School (RHS), a Catholic High School in Indiana. And when the school found out she was married to a woman they were not pleased. They gave her a choice: she could either dissolve her marriage or resign from her job.
Shelly isn’t taking this lying down, she says she has no intention of leaving the woman she loves who she has been with for more than two decades. And she plans to hire a lawyer. But should she have to?
The school says they have every right to force Shelly to choose since all employees know that they are expected to support the teachings of the Catholic Church both in and out of school. That includes the belief that marriage is “between a man and a woman.”
One Roncalli board member, Daniel Parker, resigned from his post in support of Fitzgerald because she has been his child’s guidance counselor.
“Clearly, we are doing something right when our young students and graduates understand better than some older adults that love is love, commitment is commitment, and marriage is marriage no matter who opens their heart to those wonderful gifts from God,” Parker said.
Roncalli High School is named for Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII and, since his canonization, is now referred to as Saint John XXIII.