Catholic school in Oregon changes hiring policy to allow gay and lesbian employees

The St. Mary's Academy says it is still ‘deeply committed to our Catholic identity’ despite its decision to accept gay and lesbian employees.Facebook/St. Mary's Academy

An all-girls Catholic high school in Portland, Oregon, has changed its employment policy, opening the door to gays and lesbians.

The St. Mary's Academy reversed the policy after it suffered a backlash for refusing to hire a lesbian, reports said.

In an announcement on Wednesday last week, St. Mary's Academy President Christina Friedhoff and the board of directors said: "The board of St. Mary's Academy voted unanimously to support the administration's recommendation to amend and broaden St. Mary's policy on equal employment, bringing our employment policies in line with our mission and beliefs. Effective immediately, St. Mary's has added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy. St. Mary's is a diverse community that welcomes and includes gay and lesbian students, faculty, alumnae, parents and friends, including those that are married. We are still deeply committed to our Catholic identity."

The school was criticised last month after it withdrew its counsellor job offer to Lauren Brown after finding out that she is a lesbian.

She accepted the job in the spring but the school told her last month that it was withdrawing the job offer due to her "impending marriage to a same-sex partner," said Brown's attorney, Gloria Trainor.

However, Trainor said Brown is not engaged and has no plans to marry anytime soon.

Some students launched an online protest to support Brown.

Tim Boyle, a major donor to the school and chief executive officer of Columbia Sportswear Co., criticised the school for its decision, saying there should be no employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"The news this week is an example of how to not prepare students," Boyle told the Oregonian before the school changed its policy.

School officials are holding dialogues with parents, students and staff regarding the issue so that "healing within our community can begin."

The job has already been offered to another candidate, but the school will talk to Brown as the school is "open to further discussions with her about reconciliation," said Friedhoff.

Brown refused the school's initial offer of one year's salary to settle the matter.

Trainor said Brown has "guarded optimism" about change, hoping that the school and the Catholic Church will one day support "full and equal rights" for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.