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LGBTQI Catholic Group Disappointed by Supreme Court Ruling Denying Employment Protections to Catholic School Teachers, Vows to Fight On

July 8, 2020. DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQI Catholics in the church and society, is deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling that denies Catholic school teachers legal protection against job bias. In a 7-2 decision, the Justices ruled that because the duties of the two teachers included teaching religion, they were not protected by employment nondiscrimination laws. DignityUSA had submitted an amicus brief in support of the employees in these cases.

“We are very disappointed that the Supreme Court has denied the people who teach a diverse body of students attending our nation’s Catholic and other religious schools the same legal protections as other teachers,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA’s Executive Director. “For decades, we have seen LGBTQI teachers, vocal allies, and others, such as teachers who expand their families through reproductive technologies, fired for following their consciences. Most of these people had stellar employment records, and were beloved by students, families, and colleagues. That they will continue to be subject to arbitrary application of dogma, and have no legal recourse, is profoundly destabilizing for these employees and the communities they serve.”

Duddy-Burke said, “Unfortunately, we believe that many Catholic employers will see the Supreme Court’s ruling as license to terminate or refuse to hire people based on their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or marital status, or for speaking out in ways that challenge church doctrine. This ruling will have a chilling effect on thousands of Americans working for religious organizations.”

Duddy-Burke continued, “DignityUSA has long believed that the moral duty of Catholic employers to uphold long-standing church teachings that all employees should be free from discrimination and harassment supersedes any legal ruling. We will continue to advocate for Catholic schools, parishes, health care providers, and social service agencies to establish and follow just employment practices. We continue to insist that LGBTQI people employed by these organizations must be respected and treated in non-discriminatory ways. They must be able to exercise their civil rights and follow their consciences in living in accord with who they know themselves to be.” 

Duddy-Burke noted that the majority of U.S. Catholics believe that employers should not be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. She pointed to an April 2020 survey released by Public Religion Research Institute that found that 74% of Catholics supported nondiscrimination policies for LGBT people. “I am sure that this support extends to those people employed by Catholic organizations,” she said. “It’s time for Catholics to press church leaders on ensuring that everyone our church employs is treated fairly.”