Gay guidance counselor sues Indianapolis Archdiocese for discrimination after being fired

The archdiocese told NBC News in a statement Monday that it has "a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission."
By Janelle Griffith

A gay guidance counselor is suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis for discrimination, alleging it fired her from a job at a high school because she's in a same-sex marriage.

Lynn Starkey, one of two gay guidance counselors who have accused the archdiocese of discrimination, names the church and Roncalli High School — the Catholic school where she worked for nearly 40 years until she was fired in May — in the lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Lynn StarkeyDelaney and Delaney LLC

Starkey alleges that the archdiocese and school discriminated against her on the basis of her sexual orientation, subjected her to a hostile work environment and retaliated against her after she filed complaints of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She alleges that the environment at the school was also hostile toward homosexual students, faculty and staff.

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"Starkey has suffered damages as a result of Defendants’ retaliatory actions, including but not limited to lost back pay, lost front pay, loss of future earning capacity, lost employer provided benefits, and emotional distress damages," the lawsuit states.

The archdiocese told NBC News in a statement Monday that it has "a constitutional right to hire leaders who support the schools’ religious mission."

"Catholic schools exist to communicate the Catholic faith to the next generation," the statement said. "To accomplish their mission, Catholic schools ask all teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors to uphold the Catholic faith by word and action, both inside and outside the classroom."

According to the archdiocese, Starkey "knowingly violated" her contract by entering into a same-sex marriage, "making clear that she disagrees with the Church's teaching on marriage and will not be able to uphold and model it for her students."

Starkey is the second Roncalli High School guidance counselor to raise discrimination complaints against the school and archdiocese.

Shelly Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave from her job at the high school in 2018 after administrators became aware of her same-sex marriage.

Fitzgerald said the school gave her an ultimatum: resign or “dissolve” her marriage.

Both women filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and requested the right to sue, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Starkey was issued a Notice of Right to Sue earlier this month, her lawsuit states.

Starkey is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, including for emotional distress, mental anguish, and pain and suffering, as well as lost wages, and attorney fees.