Massachusetts Court Rules against Catholic High School that Rescinded Job Offer to Married Gay Man
In a first-of-its-kind decision, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge has ruled that Fontbonne Academy, a Catholic girls' high school, discriminated against Matthew Barrett on the basis of sexual orientation and sex when it rescinded its offer of the job of food services manager to him because he is married to another man. The court ruled that Fontbonne had clearly and directly violated the Massachusetts nondiscrimination law; was not exempt from the law; and had no constitutional defenses against its discriminatory conduct. The decision can be read here.
The case, Barrett v. Fontbonne Academy, brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), seeks to enforce the nondiscrimination laws that are vitally important to our civil society and to push back against attempts by religiously-affiliated institutions to expand their ability to free themselves from the obligations of the nondiscrimination laws.
"Religiously-affiliated organizations do not get a free pass to discriminate against gay and lesbian people, " said Bennett Klein, GLAD Senior Attorney. "When Fontbonne fired Matt from a job that has nothing to do with religion, and simply because he is married, they came down on the wrong side of the law. "
"I'm ecstatic, " said Barrett. "What happened to me was wrong, and I truly hope it doesn't happen to anyone else. "
In rejecting Fontbonne's constitutional claims asserting rights of free exercise of religion and expressive association, Associate Justice Douglas H. Wilkins wrote, "The state has a compelling interest in prohibiting discrimination against historically disadvantaged people, " citing cases from the U.S. Supreme Court addressing race and sex discrimination. He continued, "That interest is rarely stronger than in the employment context... "
Barrett was born and raised in a Catholic family. He has worked in the food services industry for 20 years, and lives in Dorchester with his husband Ed Suplee.
The next step in the case will be a hearing on damages.
In addition to Klein, Barrett is represented by GLAD attorney Gary Buseck and GLAD's founder, John Ward.
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.