Guidance counselor files lawsuit against Roncalli, archdiocese claiming same-sex marriage led to dismissal

Lynn Starkey

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A guidance counselor has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Lynn Starkey says the defendants subjected her to a hostile work environment and discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation. She claims the school and archdiocese retaliated due to her complaints of discrimination.

Her lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court in Indianapolis. Starkey is the second guidance counselor to raise the issue with the school district; Shelly Fitzgerald drew national attention after she was suspended from her job because of her same-sex marriage last year.

According to the lawsuit, Starkey was notified on May 1, 2019, that her contract would not be renewed for the 2019-2020 school year after her contract expires on Aug. 31, 2019.

Starkey was a guidance counselor at Roncalli for 21 years and worked for the school for 39 years. She was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 2009.

She and her spouse obtained a civil union license in 2015. The school and archdiocese notified her that the same-sex civil union was a breach of her written employment agreement. Starkey also filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She is represented by attorney Kathleen Delaney, who’s also representing Joshua Payne-Elliott, a Cathedral High School teacher who says he was fired because of his same-sex marriage.

The archdiocese issued this statement in response to the lawsuit:

Catholic schools exist to communicate the Catholic faith to the next generation. To accomplish their mission, Catholic schools ask all teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors to uphold the Catholic faith by word and action, both inside and outside the classroom. If a school’s leaders reject core aspects of the Catholic faith, it undermines the school’s ability to accomplish its mission. Because of that, the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that religious schools have a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.

As head guidance counselor, Ms. Starkey signed a contract acknowledging her role as a leader and committing to promote Catholic teaching, including the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage. She knowingly violated that contract by entering a same-sex civil union—making clear that she disagrees with the Church’s teaching on marriage and will not be able to uphold and model it for her students. Thus, her lawsuit is clearly barred by Supreme Court precedent.

Many families in our community have sacrificed so their children can attend schools where they will learn the Catholic faith. They rely on the Archdiocese to uphold the fullness of Catholic teaching throughout its schools, and the Constitution fully protects the Church’s efforts to do so.

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