Friday, December 18, 2015

Catholic School Violates Mass. Law By Refusing To Hire Applicant Who Is In A Same-Sex Marriage

In Barrett v. Fontbonne Academy, (MA Super. Ct., Dec. 16, 2015), a Massachusetts state trial court held that a Catholic women's preparatory school unlawfully discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender in violation of 21 MGL Chap. 151B when it withdrew an offer of employment as Food Services Director to Matthew Barrett after it discovered he was a spouse in a same-sex marriage.  The school said that same-sex marriage is inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  In finding a statutory violation, the court rejected the school's argument that it came within the statutory exemption for religious organizations in Sec. 1(5) of the statute, because that exemption is limited to organizations that limit membership, enrollment, admission, or participation to members of the same religion. The court held that this limitation takes precedence over seemingly broader exemptive language for religious organizations in Sec. 4(18).  It also held that imposing these anti-discrimination provisions on the school did not violate the school's right of expressive association.  Finally the court rejected the school's reliance on the "ministerial exception" doctrine, concluding that Barrett would not be considered a minister "under any version of this doctrine." The Advocate reports on the decision.