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Catholic School Settles Discrimination Case Involving Same-Sex Marriage

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 05/10/16

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A man who lost a job offer from a Catholic high school when administrators learned he was in a same-sex marriage has received a settlement in the case, his lawyers announced Monday. The settlement comes almost five months after a Massachusetts Superior Court judge ruled that Fontbonne Academy, an all-girls school in Milton, had discriminated against Matthew Barrett by rescinding its job offer for a food service position in 2013. School officials withdrew the offer after learning that Barrett had listed his husband as an emergency contact on an employee form. The school had argued it was exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination laws because of its religious beliefs, notably the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage. The confidential settlement means the school will not appeal the December court ruling, which legal specialists described as the first of its kind. Barrett, 45, who will receive an undisclosed amount of money in the settlement, said he was thankful his legal ordeal is over. “It’s just a relief to have this off our shoulders,” he said. “We’ve gone through a lot and we’re happy it’s behind us now. We just hope it doesn’t happen to someone else.” Ben Klein, a lawyer with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) who represented Barrett in the case, said the settlement means the ruling against Fontbonne Academy stands, creating an important legal precedent that bars employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, regardless of religious conviction. “This is a case that there was not a factual dispute about whether discrimination occurred, but whether they had a permissible reason,” Klein said. “They do not.” Klein said he expected the case to have broad and lasting implications. “This is the first case in the country to rule that an employer has no religious justification for discrimination,” Klein said.

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