Guidance counselor loses job at Indianapolis high school over her same-sex marriage

INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN/CNN) - A counselor with 39 years of experience will not be returning to her job at a Catholic high school because the school says her marriage to another woman is in breach of its contract.

Officials at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis recently told guidance counselor Lynn Starkey that they will not be renewing her contract for the 2019-2020 school year. The school and the city’s Archdiocese say Starkey breached her employment agreement by entering into a same-sex civil union in 2015.

"It’s a terrible way to cap off a 39-year career,” said Starkey’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney. "Starkey’s 39 years of exemplary employment, including Teacher of the Year recognition in 2009, will end because she is in a same-sex marriage and because she filed discrimination complaints.”

Lynn Starkey was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 2009. When her contract was not renewed, she had 39 years of experience. (Source: WXIN/Tribune/Kathleen DeLaney/CNN)
Lynn Starkey was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 2009. When her contract was not renewed, she had 39 years of experience. (Source: WXIN/Tribune/Kathleen DeLaney/CNN)

The discrimination complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2018. It claims Starkey was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation.

Starkey was formerly co-director of guidance with Shelly Fitzgerald, who worked at Roncalli for 15 years until officials placed her on leave in August 2018 when they found out she married a woman.

Starkey says two days later, Principal Chuck Weisenbach asked Starkey if she had a civil union, and she answered truthfully that she does.

DeLaney believes Starkey and Fitzgerald have been singled out.

“There are more than 60 schools in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and thousands of employees. Shelly Fitzgerald and Lynn Starkey are the only ones we know of who have been asked, ‘Are you violating church teachings?’” DeLaney said.

Starkey and her attorney filed updated paperwork Monday with the EEOC, reiterating her allegations of discrimination and a hostile work environment. It’s the first required step before a lawsuit.

“It also sends the wrong message to the students who go to school there, some of whom are members of the LGBTQ community,” DeLaney said.

Once the EEOC completes its review, Starkey intends to sue the Archdiocese and the school. DeLaney says she and her client will have to wait two months before they can try the case in court.

The Archdiocese said in a statement that Starkey breached her contract because “she is in a civil union that is considered ‘contrary to a valid marriage as seen through the eyes of the Catholic Church.’”

“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,” read the statement in part.

Copyright 2019 WXIN, Tribune, Kathleen DeLaney via CNN. All rights reserved.