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Roncalli Counselor Placed on Leave Over Same-Sex Marriage Plans To Sue Archdiocese

By Carter Barrett, IPB News | Published on in Education, Faith and Religion, Statewide News
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Shelly Fitzgerald, the Roncalli High School guidance counselor that was placed on paid administrative leave after her marriage to a woman became public earlier this year, announced today her intention to bring a discrimination lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Fitzgerald says the lawsuit is not for personal gain but to spark policy reform.

“It is my mission to simply convince the Catholic church and Catholic high schools across the U.S. to implement a positive and permanent policy that affirms the LGBT+ community,” Fitzgerald says.

Archdiocese of Indianapolis could not immediately be reached for comment. This month, Roncalli announced a new program for LGBT students.

Earlier this year, Fitzgerald’s marriage certificate was turned over to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Roncalli High School. Officials told her she could dissolve her marriage, resign or quietly finish out her contract.

Fitzgerald is making four requests related to LGBT people: Archdiocese of Indianapolis change its contracts for employees by allowing staff to be in same-sex marriages;  extend spousal benefits to employees in a same-sex marriage; offer jobs to former LGBT employees fired by the Archdiocese due to the current contract; and allow Gay-Straight Alliance chapters to open in Catholic high schools.

David Page, Fitzgerald’s lawyer, says he thinks Roncalli High School has selectively enforced the morality clause in its contract.

“There is no question this is discrimination,” Page said. “But they’re clouding themselves in the freedom of religion and the ministerial exception.”

At the press conference, state Senator-elect J.D. Ford also announced his support of not allowing private schools with discriminatory policies to receive school vouchers. Ford will be Indiana’s first openly gay state senator and has voiced support for the LGBT community.

School vouchers allow some parents to take public dollars that would support their child in a public school with them to a private school. Roncalli High School received approximately $1.5 million of state funds last year –– in school vouchers.

Fitzgerald’s story garnered national attention when she appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show in September.

If the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approves the claim –– which Fitzgerald’s lawyers say they expect –– the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis can be filed.

Fitzgerald remains on paid administrative leave with Roncalli High School.

This month, Roncalli announced the Encourage program in its newsletter.

The program “promotes a positive environment and safe space for students who experience same-sex attractions and those questioning their sexual identity,” according to the school newsletter. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with same-sex attractions ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ (CCC 2358).