A federal judge has ruled that a
Catholic high school in North Carolina wrongly fired a gay teacher
after he announced plans to marry his long-time partner.
U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn said in
his ruling that the firing of Lonnie Billard in 2014 violated federal
sex discrimination laws.
Billard taught English and Drama at
Charlotte Catholic High School for 13 years. He was named the
school's Teacher of the Year in 2012.
Billard announced in an October 2014
Facebook post that he was marrying his long-time partner, who was
known in the community.
Billard was told that he was terminated
because his announcement was tantamount to advocating for marriage
equality, which the Catholic Church is opposed to.
“I know that the Catholic Church
opposes same-sex marriage, but I don’t think my commitment to my
husband has any bearing on my work in the classroom,” Billard
said. “I have never hidden the fact that I’m gay and my
relationship with my partner was no secret at school. But whether or
not the school previously knew that I am gay is not the point. People
should be able to fall in love and get married without risking their
Cogburn noted in his ruling that
heterosexual employees announcing their marriages on Facebook would
not face a similar fate as Billard.
He ruled that the defendants had
violated Title VII and that the case would “proceed to trial to
determine the appropriate relief that should be granted.”
Billard is represented by the ACLU,
ACLU of North Carolina, and Tin Fulton Walker & Owen law firm.