A volleyball coach who was fired for
being gay appeared Thursday on Ellen DeGeneres' daytime talk show.
Inoke Tonga was terminated last month
from Valor Christian High School in Denver, Colorado after he refused
to delete social media posts that identify him as gay or included a
positive LGBT message.
Students, alumni, and former staffers
have spoken out against Tonga's firing.
Speaking with DeGeneres, Tonga said
that he needed to speak up.
“I was scared to post about it or
speak up,” he said. “But I've also told my kids to advocate for
yourself and [to] advocate for other people when they can't. And it
hit me, 'What sort of message you sending if you don't speak up?'”
Valor Christian High School, a private,
Christian school, is accused of forcing the resignations of two gay
coaches in the last year. School officials have defended their
actions, saying that they require all staff, faculty, and volunteers
to “live in accordance with” the school's Christian beliefs.
Ross Murray, senior director at the
GLAAD Media Institute, said that Tonga's story highlights the need
for the Equality Act, an LGBT protections bill that stalled in the
U.S. Senate after clearing the House.
“Inoke Tonga’s story highlights the
lack of legal protections LGBTQ people continue to face, and now
millions of Americans can hear one example of anti-LGBTQ employment
discrimination, thanks to Ellen’s platform,” Murray said. “It’s
imperative that Americans learn from Inoke’s story and act to
ensure that LGBTQ don’t face discrimination at work, at home, in
places of business, or anywhere.”