uus in the news
Same-sex newlywed loses teaching job at Catholic high school
by Lorraine Sanders
Marriage is a turning point, a time when change is inevitable. But usually the changes happen at home. For newlywed UU Doug Neff, whose marriage to Corey Rothermel at San Francisco City Hall was profiled in the May/June issue, change arrived in the form of a pink slip.
In his first year teaching religion at Bishop O'Dowd Catholic High School in Oakland, California, Neff said that he had received nothing but positive feedback from students and colleagues, and so he was shocked when Principal Father Don McLeod announced that his teaching contract would not be renewed for the coming year. Neff said that McLeod refused to give him an explanation, except to say it had nothing to do with his teaching.
The situation was especially disheartening because of the school's record of tolerance toward gay and even transgender teachers. “The marriage thing didn't come into either of our minds,” said Neff of his and Rothermel's reactions.
But then the rumors started. First a student posted a comment on Neff's blog saying how sorry he was that Neff had been fired because of his marriage. Then a teacher at the school told Neff he had heard that the decision had to do with Neff's Web site, which shows pictures of his wedding day. Neff said he repeatedly asked the school administration for an explanation, but learned nothing.
Neither Bishop O'Dowd's principal nor the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland would comment on Neff's case specifically, but Penny Pendola, the diocese's director of human resources, whose department makes personnel decisions for all diocesan schools, did confirm that sexual orientation and marriage are separate issues with different levels of protection.
“I think the Church has been very clear about the fact that gay marriage is not an appropriate way to practice the Catholic faith,” Pendola said. “That is different from sexual orientation.”“I feel like their backs must have been up against the wall, the diocese,” another O'Dowd teacher, who asked to remain unidentified, said of Neff's termination. “Generally, a large portion of [the school] is extremely supportive and tolerant of diversity.”