The Human Rights Campaign is holding its news conference this morning to highlight the firing of a school teacher, Tippi McCullough, because she married her longtime partner, Barb Mariani, in New Mexico last week.
McCullough was in her 15th year at Mount St. Mary Academy. School Principal Diane Wolfe told her that her legal matrimony required her to enforce Catholic doctrine by terminating employment of people who don’t adhere to church teachings. McCullough has said Wolfe knew of her sexual orientation but chose not to make an issue of it before the marriage.
Chad Griffin, the Arkansas native who heads the HRC, the nation’s most prominent advocacy group for LGBT rights, made the broader point about McCullough.
Whatever the Catholic Church and its affiliates may be permitted to do legally by religious exemption from civil laws, he said the firing sends the message that “leading a responsible life, a good life, isn’t enough” and is “shamelessly and dangerously sending a message that if you’re LGBT, you simply don’t belong.”
About 100 people attended the event at South on Main restaurant. Many of them were colleagues of Mariani’s in the prosecuting attorney’s office. She is a deputy prosecutor.
David Koon updates:
McCullough spoke. Yesterday, returning to Mount St. Mary to gather personal belongings was one of the hardest days of her life. She and Mariani, McCullough said, had always been private and discreet about their private lives. “I just wanted to teach,” she said. She’s devastated about her firing, she said. “My 15 years of commitment had been reduced to a mere label.” Said she hopes everyone approaches the issue with “peace, intelligence, patience and understanding.”
Barbara Mariani introduced herself by saying: “I’m a spouse to Tippi McCollough. That’s the first time I’ve ever been able to say that.” Mariani said “Devastated doesn’t really describe the last week of emotional ups and downs,” adding that within the 45 minutes of being married and the phone call from Diane Wolfe, she saw McCollough go from being “the happiest I’ve ever seen her to two-hours of non-stop crying.”
Mariani thanked friends, fellow prosecutors, faculty at the Mount and Catholics who have reached out to say the firing doesn’t represent their faith. She also took time to thank her boss, Prosecutor Larry Jegley, who she said is “a man who not only believes in equality, but insists on it” in the workplace.
“No one should ever fear losing their job for being the person God created them to be,” Mariani said
Koon asked McCullough if she’d send a daughter to Mount St. Mary.
She said that while she’d never tell someone else what to do with their children, she said she would’t want her own daughter to attend there “in this climate.”
The group would like an apology from Mount St. Mary. Waiting.
Footnote: Jegley, as prosecutor, was the appellant in the landmark case, Jegley v. Picado, that struck down the criminal sodomy statute in Arkansas. (Understand that Jegley volunteered to be the fall guy in that important declaratory action. He’d never prosecuted a sodomy case and said he doubted anyone ever would.)