2 Teachers Ordered Fired By Indy Archdiocese Are Married, Lawyer Says

Jul 10, 2019

The two gay teachers ordered fired from their separate Catholic schools by the Indianapolis Archdiocese are married, their lawyer said today. One of the teachers filed a lawsuit.

Former Cathedral High School teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott also filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Archdiocese. Payne-Elliott claims the Archdiocese discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and retaliated against him for opposing sexual orientation discrimination, according to a press release by his attorney.

“We hope that this case will put a stop to the targeting of LGBTQ employees and their families,”
Payne-Elliott said in a statement.

Payne-Elliott kept his identity private since the school announced the termination of a teacher due to his same-sex marriage last month. Today, his attorney said Payne-Elliott married Layton Payne-Elliott, who teaches at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, in 2017.

Brebeuf leaders refused orders by Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson to fire Layton Payne-Elliott because of his marriage. As a result, the Archdiocese cut ties with Brebeuf.

According to attorney Kathleen A. DeLaney, they are seeking compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, liquidated and/or punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and unspecified amounts in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese.

“We intend to hold the Archdiocese accountable for violations of state and federal law,” DeLaney said.

The Archdiocese responded with a statement.

"In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis' Catholic schools, all teachers, school leaders and guidance counselors are ministers and witnesses of the faith, who are expected to uphold the teachings of the Church in their daily lives, both in and out of school," the statement read. "Religious liberty, which is a hallmark of the U.S. Constitution and has been tested in the U.S. Supreme Court, acknowledges that religious organizations may define what conduct is not acceptable and contrary to the teachings of its religion, for its school leaders, guidance counselors, teachers and other ministers of the faith."

Last year, the Archdiocese asked Roncalli High School to place guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald on administrative leave after school officials found out about her marriage to a woman. Fitzgerald filed two discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission related to the issue.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.