Catholic High School Dismisses Second Gay Counselor

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 8, 2019   

Roncalli High School will not renew Lynn Starkey's contract owing to same-sex civil union

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INDIANAPOLIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic high school is removing a second guidance counselor for being in a same-sex union. 

Roncalli High School in Indianapolis recently decided not to renew the contract of guidance counselor Lynn Starkey after learning about her same-sex civil union.

The school informed Starkey on March 6 that her contract would not be renewed for the 2019–2020 school year.

A statement from the archdiocese of Indianapolis argued, "Ms. Starkey is currently in breach of her contract with Roncalli High School because she is in a civil union that is considered 'contrary to a valid marriage as seen through the eyes of the Catholic Church.'"

It continued, "The 2019–2020 contract language will contain the same language. Therefore, Ms. Starkey could not in good faith enter into the contract so long as she is unable to abide by the terms of the contract."

This comes after Roncalli High School put Shelly Fitzgerald, also a guidance counselor, on leave last August when school administrators received evidence that she was in a same-sex "marriage."


Both Starkey and Fitzgerald have filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Roncalli High School and the archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Starkey first filed discrimination charges with the EEOC in November 2018. Her attorney then filed an updated version of those charges on March 25 this year — a few weeks after the school informed Starkey that her contract would not be renewed.

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has filed two EEOC charges — filing one in early January and the other in late February. The charge filed January claimed discrimination and a hostile work environment, while the charge from February accused the school of retaliating by blocking her father, Pat Fitzgerald, from volunteering at the school's Senior Retreat.

Pat had protested the school's move against his daughter. The school claimed he was no longer allowed to volunteer at the retreat due to "his own participation in public protests [opposing] Catholic Church teaching."

Starkey has worked at Roncalli for 39 years. She and her same-sex partner obtained a civil union license in 2015.

The issue concerning Ms. Fitzgerald's employment is not about sexual orientation, but about the Church's teaching that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as established and revealed by God.

Fitzgerald worked at Roncalli for 15 years. She and her same-sex partner were civilly married in 2014 and are raising a child they adopted. Her marriage license was mailed to the school last August.

When Roncalli administrators met with Fitzgerald last August, they laid out several options on the table, according to Fitzgerald's account of the meeting. One possibility was to keep her on staff until the end of the school year if "things stayed quiet" and the controversy stayed under wraps.

But if word of the scandal became widespread, school leaders said they would likely have to "move towards termination." Fitzgerald was also given the options to resign immediately or to dissolve her same-sex "marriage" in order to stay on staff.

Fitzgerald opted to go public about the controversy. When the news came out, many condemned Roncalli High, accusing school administrators of hatred and prejudice. But others defended the school, claiming that faith-based entities have the right to fire and hire in accord with their religion.

Social media debates were so fierce back in August that the school decided to shut down its Facebook page at the time.

Indianapolis Abp. Charles C. Thompson addressed last August's controversy in a statement on Aug. 21, saying, "The issue concerning Ms. Fitzgerald's employment is not about sexual orientation, but about the Church's teaching that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman as established and revealed by God."

The archbishop's statement went on to say, "When a person is not fulfilling their obligations as a minister of the faith within a school, Church and school leadership address the situation by working with the person to find a path of accompaniment that will lead to a resolution in accordance with Church teaching."

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