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Fired lesbian teacher: Catholic educators union won't back me


Former Bishop Watterson physical education teacher Carla Hale was fired in March.

A gay teacher who was fired from a Catholic high school in Ohio says she has been dealt another blow: Her local union isn't supporting her.

Carla Hale taught physical education for 19 years at Bishop Watterson Catholic High School in Columbus. She was fired in March after her name appeared with her longtime lesbian partner's name in her mother's obituary.

The firing, which the school said was prompted by an anonymous letter from a parent complaining about a lesbian teacher, resulted in a heated debate on both sides for the diocese of Columbus.

On Monday, Hale and her attorney announced their request for help with her case had been turned down by the local union for Catholic educators.

"The COACE [Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators] informs you of the decision of its Grievance Committee not to carry forward the grievance Ms. Carla Hale has filed to challenge the termination of her employment as a Diocesan teacher," read the letter from the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, according to WCMH.com in Ohio. It was signed by the union's president, Kathleen Mahoney.

The association did not return calls seeking comment.

Hale was fired March 28, ater returning from a break for her mother's funeral. She said she was called into a meeting with administrators, who had a copy of the obituary for her mother that she and her brother had written. They also handed her an anonymous letter from a parent calling the diocese disgraceful for employing a lesbian teacher at its school. 

Her termination letter from Bishop Watterson Principal Marian Hutson declared, "Your written spousal relationship violates the moral laws of the Catholic Church."

Following Hale's dismissal, the school said it received threatening phone calls and a slew of online criticism. But it stood by its decision, even as Hale filed a grievance to seek reinstatement and was denied.

"My living arrangements are my personal business. I'm a very moral person," she told reporters Monday after learning of the union's decision. "My decision to acknowledge a loved one in my mother's obituary was not immoral. I am not immoral." 

Hale has also filed a complaint with the city of Columbus, which prohibits firing employees based on sexual orientation. 

Her attorney, Tom Tootle, said it could take a month or more for the city to rule on her case, according to WCMH.com. Without help from her union, he asked her supporters for financial assistance.

"Arbitrations can be very expensive. Without the support and assistance of the COACE, we will need the support of all those who have been out there," Tootle said.

Hale's case has received national attention. A Change.org petition calling her to get her job back has more than 127,000 signatures. Locally, a group supporting her called Halestorm Ohio has more than 5,000 members, according to WCMH.com.

Carla Hale, the longtime teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus Ohio who says she was fired from her job after her lesbian partner's name was listed in her mother's newspaper obituary, describes the "shock" that followed her termination.

"We have a real opportunity not only to see justice done for a great teacher and great mentor, but to also make history. What we do here could impact employment policy all over the country," Amanda Finelli, a member of Halestorm Ohio, told WCMH.com.

NBC News' Jeff Black contributed to this report.

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Fired lesbian teacher fights to get job at Catholic high school back