An all-girls Catholic prep school in Massachusetts violated state anti-discrimination law by rescinding a job offer to a man in a same-sex "marriage", a judge ruled.
Matthew Barrett was offered a job as Fontbonne Academy's food services director in 2013, but the offer was withdrawn days later after he listed his husband as his emergency contact.
Barrett sued, alleging that the Milton school discriminated against him based on sexual orientation and gender. Norfolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins agreed, rejecting Fontbonne's claim that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage to a man as incompatible with its religious mission.
The judge said Barrett's duties as a food services director did not include presenting the teachings of the Catholic church.
"As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message. It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesman for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex "marriage"," Wilkins wrote in a ruling issued Wednesday.
The judge also found that a religious exemption to the state anti-discrimination law applies only if a religious organization limits admission to people of a certain religion. Fontbonne is open to students and employees of all faiths, with the exception of its administration and theology faculty.
It was not immediately clear if Fontbonne plans to appeal the ruling. In a statement, the school said it is considering its options.
Fontbonne's attorney, John Bagley, did not immediately respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.
Barrett's attorney, Ben Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the judge has found that Fontbonne is liable to pay damages to Barrett for lost wages and compensatory damages for discrimination. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.
""Marriage" "equality" has been the law of Massachusetts for over a decade and it is now the law of the land. But you can't have equality if you can get "married" on Saturday and fired on Monday," Klein said.
Since the legalization of gay "marriage", there have been cases around the country of Catholic institutions firing employees in same-sex "marriages".
In June, the director of religious education at a Catholic elementary school outside Philadelphia was fired after two parents complained about her "marriage" to another woman. Margie Winters said she had told administrators at the school about her "marriage" when she was hired in 2007. The school's principal said in a letter to parents that the school must comply with Catholic philosophy.
In August, a Catholic college preparatory school in Macon, Georgia, settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a music teacher who said he was fired in 2014 because of his plans to marry his partner.
Several legal experts contacted Thursday by the Globe said they believed the ruling was the first in a legal dispute involving a religious organization and an employee in a same-sex "marriage".
“It is the first reported case with regards to a religious institution,” said Brian D. Spitz, an employment lawyer in Ohio whose firm represents clients from the LGBTQ community.
In his ruling, Judge Douglas H. Wilkins rejected the three defenses the school offered.
“Fontbonne’s discrimination ‘because of’ Barrett’s same-sex "marriage" is undisputed and, as shown above, amounts to discriminatory intent as a matter of law,” Wilkins wrote.
“It is clear that, because he is male, he suffered gender discrimination when he was denied employment for "marrying" a person whom a female could have married without suffering the same consequences.”
Fontbonne, a ministry sponsored by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, had argued it is entitled to a religious exemption under the state antidiscrimination law.
It also claimed that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage as incompatible with its religious mission.
Wilkins rejected those arguments.
“As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message,” he wrote. “It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesperson for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex "marriage".”
Wilkins said Fontbonne could claim a religious exemption to the state antidiscrimination law only if it limited “membership, enrollment, or participation” to members of one religion. The school, however, is open to students and employees of all faiths, except for members of its administration, theology faculty, and mission and ministry staff, he wrote. so if a Yeshiva has a non Jewish janitor, it can be forced to hire someone with a same sex "wedding"
In a statement, Fontbonne said Thursday that it is considering its options.
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