A group of trade unions in Australia last month passed a motion saying that they will lobby to restrict the right of religious organizations to make hiring decisions based on adherence to Church teaching on sexuality.
Wil Stracke, a member of the Victorian Trades Hall Council which proposed the new motion, said that union members hoped the religious exemptions to discrimination laws would be “narrowed significantly so that they can only apply when it’s an inherent requirement of the job.”
“We recognise there are roles in some places where it’s appropriate, [such as] religious education at a Catholic school,” she told the Guardian.
“But...we don’t see why the school should be able to discriminate for someone who is the cleaner there. We’ll work on changing those laws and advocating for that change.”
Although Australia legalized same-sex marriage last year, many religious organizations, most notably schools, retain the right to hire and fire employees based on whether they abide by Church teaching.
An Australian woman told the Guardian that she lost her job at a Catholic organization after someone discovered that she supported same-sex marriage on social media. She told the Guardian that her job was to give educational presentations that were unrelated to gender or sexuality.
“I’d been careful not to speak about sexuality because I knew it would close doors,” she said.
“It turned out someone had found out I was speaking, looked me up on Facebook, found I’d changed my profile picture to a rainbow when the US supreme court passed marriage equality about a year before, and complained to the bishop of the diocese.”
The issue has been raised numerous times in the United States as well, including in 2013, when a gym teacher was fired from a Catholic school in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio after her same-sex relationship became public. The diocese emphasized that the woman was not fired for being a lesbian, but for violating Church teaching by being in a relationship with another woman.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the rights of religious organizations to exercise autonomy in their hiring and firing decisions of employees whom they consider to be ministers.
In 2017, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lonnie Billard, a substitute teacher, who was fired by Charlotte Catholic High School in North Carolina and the Diocese of Charlotte after posting about his same-sex wedding on Facebook. The suit is pending, though Prof. Robert Destro of Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law told CNA at the time that the case would likely be dismissed, because most Catholic teachers agree in their contracts to abide by Church teaching.