LITTLE ROCK, AR -- A civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has called out Mount St. Mary Academy for what they call "discriminatory employment practices."
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Tippi McCullough was a teacher at the school when she went to New Mexico to marry her female partner of 14 years. After returning, she was told by principal, Diane Wolfe, she had to terminate her or she could resign to avoid a public firing.
On Friday, the principal of Mount St. Mary Academy emailed a statement to the Arkansas Times about the termination. Wolfe wrote "This was not just my decision. I am only the messenger."
The organization issued the following news release Thursday evening:
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, is calling on Mount St. Mary’s Academy in Little Rock, AR to immediately cease discriminatory employment practices targeting their LGBT teachers.
Yesterday, Tippi McCullough, a teacher at Mount St. Mary’s, traveled to New Mexico to marry her partner of 14 years, Barb Mariani. According to Mariani, shortly after their wedding ceremony, a secretary at the school called Tippi and said that if she got married she would be fired-telling her that she was calling her for her own protection. Later, a second call came from the school principal, who, upon confirming Tippi had married her partner, purportedly told her, “I never thought this day would come, but I have to terminate you,” and that Tippi could resign to avoid being publicly fired.
“To fire a beloved teacher simply because she is gay is morally reprehensible,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native. “At a moment when Pope Francis is urging the Catholic hierarchy to put aside judgment and a decades-long campaign targeting devoted LGBT Catholics, it’s shameful that this school is ignoring that hopeful message in favor of explicit and baseless discrimination.”
“It is impossible to believe that the first call we received after the most joyous occasion of our lives was a vocal pink slip,” said McCullough’s partner, Barb Mariani. “Tippi has been a beloved teacher at Mount St. Mary’s for 15 years and it’s a sad day when she is fired for doing nothing more than committing to the person she loves - me.”
In response to this developing situation, HRC is calling on Mount St. Mary’s students, teachers, donors, community members and all fair-minded Arkansans to speak out against this injustice. Recent polling found that 86 percent of Christians believed the very tenets of their faith compelled them to support protections for LGBT people under the law-and American Catholics are leading the way in their support for equality.
According to Mariani, the school’s principal was aware that McCullough was gay and knew her of their relationship, but that didn’t deter her from threatening McCullough with termination under her contract’s morality clause. When Tippi pressed the principal about the irrationality of the termination, the principal purportedly said, “I’m not going to get in a theological conversation with you.” She told McCullough if she resigned, she would write her a “glowing recommendation.” As yet, Tippi has not made a final decision about her next course of action.