Shelly Fitzgerald, the LGBTQ guidance counsellor who was fired from her job at Roncalli High School because of her sexual orientation in August 2018, has filed a federal lawsuit against the high school and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Shelly’s Voice, a local advocacy group that launched after her firing, has launched a fundraising campaign to financially assist with the legal fees. Shelly’s Voice is hopeful to raise $150,000 by the end of the year. To donate to the campaign, click here.
Fitzgerald’s lawsuit, filed Monday, claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex and sexual orientation after the school administration discovered she was in a same-sex marriage, leading her to become a victim of retaliation and subject to a hostile work environment.
The lawsuit also claims that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis interfered with Fitzgerald’s contractual and business relationships with Roncalli High School.
When the Roncalli school administration discovered her same-sex marriage in August 2018, Fitzgerald, who worked as a guidance counsellor for Roncalli High School for 15 years, was given the option to dissolve her marriage, resign or keep quiet until her contract expired.
After declining all three options, Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave and then ultimately fired from her job at the end of the school year when her contract expired.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has since released a statement which states that it has the constitutional right to “hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission.”
The statement also argues that “Catholic schools ask all teachers, administrators, and guidance counsellors to uphold the Catholic faith by word and action, both inside and outside the classroom.”
Several years ago, The Archdiocese of Indianapolis made it a requirement for all the Catholic schools in the area to implement a “morality clause” into employee contracts, ordering all Catholic school employees to live in accordance with Catholic teachings.
Following Fitzgerald’s release, a group of students at Roncalli High School created an advocacy organization called Shelly’s Voice, which aims to end the type of discrimination faced by LGBTQ employees like Fitzgerald in the Catholic community.
Since its creation, Shelly’s Voice has attracted national attention to Fitzgerald’s case and the issue of protections for LGBTQ employees in America.
In September 2018, members of Shelly’s Voice appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, where Ellen donated $25,000 towards its advocacy efforts. Fitzgerald and a former Roncalli student and co-founder of Shelly’s Voice, Dominic Conover, were also featured at the LGBTQ Presidential Forum hosted by GLAAD, The Advocate, One Iowa and the Gazette in September of this year.
Although Fitzgerald’s case remains the most visible, three other LGBTQ educators have also been fired by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for similar remains.