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Indiana teacher fired for same-sex marriage sues archdiocese

Posted at 7:44 PM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 20:46:30-04

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Catholic high school teacher who was fired because he's in a same-sex marriage sued the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on Wednesday, accusing it of discrimination and interfering with his teaching contract.

Joshua Payne-Elliott is suing the archdiocese in Marion County court and seeking unspecified compensatory, emotional distress and other damages.

Payne-Elliott taught at Cathedral High School for 13 years and Cathedral renewed his annual teaching contract on May 21, his attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said in a news release. But on June 23, Cathedral's president told him he was being fired on the orders of the archdiocese.

Payne-Elliott also has filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the archdiocese discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation and retaliated against him for opposing sexual orientation discrimination, the news release said.

"We intend to hold the Archdiocese accountable for violations of state and federal law," DeLaney said.

Payne-Elliott in 2017 married Layton Payne-Elliott, who teaches at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. The archdiocese ordered Brebeuf to fire Layton Payne-Elliot, but the school refused, DeLaney said. As a result, the archdiocese said it no longer recognizes Brebeuf as a Catholic institution, though Brebeuf still identifies itself as an independent Catholic school.

Speaking for his family, Joshua Payne-Elliott said, "We hope that this case will put a stop to the targeting of LGBTQ employees and their families."

The archdiocese said in a statement that the U.S. Constitution allows religious organizations to define what conduct is unacceptable for employees.

"In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis' Catholic schools, all teachers, school leaders and guidance counselors are ministers and witnesses of the faith, who are expected to uphold the teachings of the Church in their daily lives, both in and out of school," the archdiocese said.

DeLaney on Tuesday said Joshua Payne-Elliott had reached a settlement with Cathedral in which the school will help him with future employment options. In it, Payne-Elliott thanked Cathedral for the opportunities and experiences that he has had teaching there and does not wish the school any harm. Cathedral thanked the teacher for the years of service, contributions, and achievements.

It wasn't clear whether a monetary settlement was included.