By Bob Vitale
In the week since word spread that Bishop Frederick Campbell and the Catholic Diocese of Columbus fired a local high school teacher simply because she’s a lesbian, many have worried about the message the church’s action sent to LGBT youngsters.
Carla Hale yesterday urged gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning kids to focus instead on what has happened afterward in Columbus and around the nation. In an interview with Outlook, she said the negative message of her firing has been outweighed many times over by the positive outpouring that followed.
“I’m hoping that, possibly for the first time in many of their lives, they actually see the love and support that’s being generated,” Hale said. “It’s one of those subjects that can’t ever be discussed [in Catholic schools], but I’m hoping now they can actually see what this whole situation has created, that there is a lot more support out there than they could have even imagined.”
“Hopefully that’s what stays and that’s what endures and continues on from this whole situation.”
Hale was waiting yesterday for a response from Bishop Watterson High School Principal Marian Hutson to a grievance she filed on April 10 challenging her dismissal. She planned to speak with the media this morning at Stonewall Columbus. (Check back at outlookcolumbus.com for the latest.)
The 19-year physical education teacher and cross-country coach at the Catholic high school was fired during Holy Week by Campbell and diocesan officials who read her mother’s obituary in the newspaper. Hale included her partner, Julie, in the tribute to her late mother. A Watterson parent wrote an anonymous letter saying he or she was “appalled.”
News of Hale’s firing has galvanized Watterson students, alumni and parents, though, and her cause has picked up support nationally. More than 45,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in one week. Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and advice columnist and “It Gets Better” founder Dan Savage have Tweeted their support.
About 125 people with ties to Watterson met Saturday to talk about how they can help Hale and push the Catholic church to rethink its purge of LGBT teachers. Hale said she has heard in the past week from a couple other educators who have been fired by Catholic schools.
At Saturday’s meeting, another former Watterson teacher said he took another job because he feared getting fired one day.
Hale said Watterson isn’t to blame for the church’s actions against gay and lesbian teachers.
“Watterson’s always been a great place to work and be. I’ve always felt accepted, and tolerance is great there,” she said. “Watterson is not the problem. Hopefully it’s the beginning of the solution. We always call our school the flagship as far as academics and athletics. Maybe that’s what’s going to come out of this. We’re going to be the school that will go forward.”