A recent spike in firing of gay teachers in Catholic schools or in lay employees who support marriage equality has generated something new…rebellion and protest among the laity.
It’s not news that gay teachers and other employees of Catholic institutions lose their jobs over a same-sex relationship. Nor is it news that priests have sometimes quietly resisted pressure to fire gay employees. What’s different in recent years is a growing acceptance of gay marriage among Catholics, and gay people’s increasing ability to marry and unwillingness to hide their relationships.
The consequence, from a vocal swath of the laity, is a public pushback against Catholic institutions that fire gay employees who get married. Among the recent cases that rankled lay Catholics:
Kristen Ostendorf, an English and religion teacher at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, Minn., for 18 years. She lost her job this summer after acknowledging her lesbian relationship at a faculty meeting.
Trish Cameron, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Moorhead, Minn., for 11 years. The school fired her in June 2012 after she told school officials that she supports gay marriage, though she keeps her views out of the classroom.
Al Fischer, who taught music at St. Ann Catholic School in St. Louis for four years. St. Ann dismissed him in February 2012 after school officials learned of his plans to marry another man.
This summer, dozens of former students rallied outside St. Lucy’s and 75,000 people signed the petition to reinstate Bencomo; petitions are circulating in support of other teachers and lay leaders who faced similar fates.