A guidance counselor at an Indianapolis Catholic school has been placed on administrative leave after school officials discovered she was married to a woman.
Shelley Fitzgerald has worked at Roncalli High School, which is run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, for 15 years and has been with her now-wife for 22 years.
In an exclusive interview on Monday, Fitzgerald told local NBC affiliate WTHR that she was forced to make her private life public after someone got a hold of her 2014 marriage license and sent it to a school administrator, who in turn shared it with the archbishop of Indianapolis and the superintendent.
Fitzgerald said school administrators gave her an ultimatum: resign or “dissolve” her marriage.
“I have no intention of resigning, I have no intention of being quiet, and I didn’t need the counsel that they were offering from the priest,” she told WTHR.
Following “public concerns regarding Ms. Fitzgerald’s employment status,” Roncalli High School posted on its Facebook page Sunday night.
“Catholic schools are ministries of the Catholic Church, and teachers, school guidance counselors and administrators are vital ministers in sharing the mission of the Church. They are expected to be role models and are expressly charged with leading students toward Christian maturity and with teaching the Word of God,” the statement reads, in part.
“As role models for students, the personal conduct of every teacher, guidance counselor and administrator and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church. These teachings include, but are not limited to... the belief that all persons are called to respect human sexuality and its expression in the Sacrament of Marriage between a man and a woman as a sign of God’s love and fidelity to His Church.”
Fitzgerald, a devout Catholic and graduate of Roncalli High School, signed a professional contract with the religious school and told WTHR she kept her personal life private all these years because she knew she was “at risk” of losing her job because of her marriage.
As of Monday evening, a Facebook page supporting Fitzgerald garnered nearly 2,400 members, many claiming to be students and alumni of Roncalli High School. There were also more than 100 tweets using the hashtag #ISupportMsFitzgerald that also appear to be from former and current students. Fitzgerald said she’s “completely overwhelmed” by the outpouring of support.
Fitzgerald confirmed to NBC News that she has hired an attorney. However, she told WTHR that she hopes a dialogue with the diocese and the school will avoid a discrimination lawsuit.
"My goal, my intent is just to be a catalyst for change,” she said.