A volleyball and softball coach, student government moderator and chemistry teacher of nine years at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, said she was fired because of her “nontraditional” pregnancy.
“That you can’t hide a pregnancy from the public is why I was terminated,” 30-year-old Barbara Webb said. She and her partner, Kristen Lasecki, have been together over five years.
Webb told her employer in July that she was pregnant and was fired mid-August. According to Webb, her termination letter didn’t give a reason, but previous conversations with administrators said they had concerns about a morality clause which allows firing for “lifestyle or actions directly contradictory to the Catholic faith.”
Sister Lenore Pochelski, the school president, declined to comment.
According to Webb, the administration said she could either resign with health insurance but no benefits or paychecks without discussing what happened, or be fired.
“I really felt like resigning was a lie; to me, that was willingly leaving,” Webb said, who waited a week to decide to with getting fired. “I was kind of compelled to just let people know the truth.”
An employment lawyer in Bloomfield Hills said if the case went to court, the First Amendment freedom of religion could apply.
“Pregnancy discrimination is flat-out illegal,” Deborah Gordon said. “There are no exemptions for religious institutions.”
On Sunday morning, protesters held signs promoting human rights for all citizens in front of Marian High School.
Over 100 people attended the two-hour rally.
“We value human diversity,” Marian graduate Amanda Ruud, who helped organize the rally, said. “It’s time to show that – through actions and through works. It’s time we look at [homosexuals] as equals and not shame them for who they are.”
A Facebook page, “I Stand With Barb Webb” was created by another Marian alum Rachel Chapman Kopera with over 3,300 members. A change.org petition was also created to ask Marian admin for support of LGBT students and staff.
“Marian teaches us about social justice in profound ways,” Mazza Cunnings said. “This is a human rights issue. There’s a mother and a child involved. [Standing up for them] is what we were taught to do.”
“I was just really kind of disappointed,” senior Brigid Johnson said. “We’re taught, as Christians and Catholics, about love and forgiveness and acceptance. So the first thing that came to mind was, ‘What could we do?’”
Webb said she was overwhelmed by the support from the community.
“It’s not about me anymore,” she said. “Really, it never was. It’s time for the students at Marian to have an outlet. There’s no [Gay-Straight Alliance] club for students to express themselves. It’s time to change the outlook for the future.”