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Catholic schoolteacher fired for same-sex relationship

May 6, 2013 at 4:21 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 6 (UPI) -- A former Catholic schoolteacher says she was fired for being in a same-sex relationship and is now fighting to get her job back.

Carla Hale, 57, a former physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, was fired from her position of 19 years in March after her same-sex partner appeared in her mother's obituary The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

The Catholic Diocese of Columbus received an anonymous note from a "concerned parent" that said: "I was shocked by what I saw. It had her teacher's name and that of her 'spouse' listed. It was two females!"

Hale was told that she violated a section of a contract between the diocese and a union representing Catholic teachers that states teachers can be fired for "immorality."

"The decision that I made -- to acknowledge Julie, my partner, in my mother's obituary -- is not immoral," Hale said last week in a statement made through her lawyer, Thomas Tootle.

"Immorality," Tootle said. "That's an awfully vague term."

Last week, Hale filed a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Board, a city-government agency that investigates instances of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation. She has also filed a grievance with the teachers union, seeking to be reinstated.

Hale's cause has also been taken up by local residents who say she should get her job back.

"Discrimination is inexcusable in this day and age," said Amanda Finelli of Columbus, a former student of Hale's who organized a group called #halestormOhio.

Finelli's group has started an online petition calling for Hale's reinstatement that has collected tens of thousands of signatures.

"This issue is much larger than simply the reinstatement of Carla Hale," said Richard MacAleese, a friend of Finelli. "These kinds of things are happening all across the country, especially in religious institutions. We hope to effect change in a greater sense."

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