INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — For the first time since she filed a federal lawsuit last month, the former Roncalli High School guidance counselor who was fired because of her same sex marriage told her story, in church, Sunday.
Shelly Fitzgerald was dismissed from her job in the summer of 2018 when her boss received a copy of her marriage certificate.
In late October, Fitzgerald sued the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for unlawfully dismissing her.
Fitzgerald told her fellow parishioners at LifeJourney Church she never intended to be a role model for LGBTQ rights.
“I don’t like the attention. I don’t like the notoriety,” Fitzgerald said, adding that she was “outed” by her administration’s Sunday night announcement to the school community that she would not returning to Roncalli the next day.
Fitzgerald said she was offered four options by the Roncalli administration when her same sex marriage came to light: divorce her wife of two decades and receive counseling, resign, keep quiet and have her contract concluded at the end of the school year or be fired.
“I said, ‘You’re gonna be sorry because people love me, and people will stand up for me,’” Fitzgerald said to applause from the congregation.
Upon her dismissal, Archbishop Charles Thompson issued a statement that found “The Church’s teaching (is) that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman…ordered to the good of the couple and the procreation and education of children.”
Fitzgerald and her wife are the parents of a 13-year-old daughter.
Fitzgerald counseled students at Roncalli for 15 years.
Archbishop Thompson found that Fitzgerald had violated her ministerial job description, yet the counselor claimed in her lawsuit last month that she was not a ministerial employee and had never required religious instruction or training.
Another Roncalli counselor was fired last spring when her same sex marriage was revealed, and a social worker said she was fired for publicly supporting the women.
Fitzgerald said the fallout has left her wrestling with emotions.
“Some of the ones I struggle with most is the guilt that I feel sometimes for what other people have had to endure because of this story, so other people being fired, students being silenced, teachers being silenced, other people in other schools being fired.
“What I’d like to do is to continue in advocating to make this right,” she said. “I genuinely in my heart believe that there should be a place at the table for every single person, and my intent is to not stop fighting until that happens.”
Again, the congregation applauded.
After Fitzgerald filed her federal lawsuit last month, the Archdiocese issued a statement saying “The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that religious schools have a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.”