INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In March, we learned a second counselor at Roncalli High School would be fired because of her same-sex marriage, an action that sparked a discussion about religious liberty and gay rights.
Months later, that counselor, Lynn Starkey, is speaking with CBS4 as she moves forward with a lawsuit.
Starkey calls it a journey.
“I felt like a stranger in my own land, it was,” said Starkey.
Starkey hopes this journey will spark change.
“I loved the community,” said Starkey. “I mean, seriously, there was never a day I didn’t wake up with a spark and bounce in my step. It was life-giving to me.”
For the first school year in 21 years, she’s not guiding students at Roncalli High School. This past spring, the school decided not to renew her contract. The school and archdiocese notified her that her same-sex marriage was a breach of her written employment agreement.
“That was taken away on the basis of who I am, not a choice, who I am and who I’m married to,” said Starkey. “I just want to do anything I can so that no one else has to go through what Shelly Fitzgerald and I went through this last year. It’s just not right.”
Starkey isn’t alone. Another Former Roncalli counselor, Shelly Fitzgerald, drew national attention after she was fired from her job. This summer, a Cathedral teacher was also let go for his same sex marriage, which the school said was also a breach of contract. Additionally, Brebeuf Jesuit is taking its case to Rome after the Archdiocese stripped the school of its catholic identity in a dispute involving a teacher in a same-sex marriage.
“Who would have thought how much awareness has been brought to a multi-faceted issue here in a relatively short amount of time?” said Starkey.
Starkey has since filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Roncalli and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis released the following statement:
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.
Starkey’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, says there’s a lot at stake.
“If we are successful in pursuing the lawsuit, then there will be law established that says 'Yes, the law does apply to the Archdiocese as an employer, and they are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation against guidance counselors and other non-administers of the faith,'” said DeLaney.
For now, Starkey wants her story to inspire.
“Being an LGBT person has never felt like a choice to me. It’s never felt like a choice, and I don’t think it’s a stretch then to say god made me as I am, and I don’t think it hurts anybody,” said Starkey.
She says through this fight, she hasn’t lost sight of her true passion, which is helping kids. She’s now guiding students at a public school in Indianapolis.
“I’m doing the work I did before,” said Starkey. “I am very grateful to have been able to find a job. This school that I am at welcomes diversity of every kind and not just welcomes it, celebrates it. They’re very clear about that.”
Starkey says she won’t forget what has happened, but she’s ready to move on.
“We’re still on that journey, waiting frankly for justice,” said Starkey.
We did reach out to Roncalli but have not heard back.