Congrats, local Catholics. You have managed to demonstrate that Rush Limbaugh was right.
Just days after the right-wing radio bloviator declared that America is in no way ready for a gay, married president, the Catholic apparatus here in the allegedly not-backward Seattle region demonstrated it won’t even tolerate a gay, married English teacher.
“How’s this gonna look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump? What’s gonna happen there?” Limbaugh said last week, referring to Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg. “America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage.”
Limbaugh, who said he was just imagining what freaked-out party bosses must be thinking, was roundly criticized for homophobia. Not to mention the irony of that slobbering nickname “Mr. Man,” as if the draft-dodging, thrice-married Trump embodies some sort of masculine ideal?
But then along comes Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, with its parent, the Seattle Archdiocese, to push out two teachers in the middle of the school year for the crime of … getting engaged.
The school said Paul Danforth, an English teacher, “resigned voluntarily.” But Danforth’s fiancé, Sean Nyberg, told media the real reason Danforth is gone was because of their engagement last November — photos of which they posted on Facebook.
“Paul is no longer employed because I had asked him to marry me, and he said yes,” Nyberg wrote.
A second teacher in a similar situation also left the school.
That is a fireable offense in the Catholic world, as was seen a few years back when Eastside Catholic High School canned a vice principal for marrying his male partner. The schools have a religious exception to state anti-discrimination law, and so have the legal right to get rid of teachers for being gay (or, in this case, for getting married to someone of the same sex).
The Seattle Archdiocese’s contract with teachers specifically states they can be fired “if the teacher’s life-style is incompatible with Catholic moral values or if his/her conduct is at variance with Catholic teaching.” That could include such commonplace American activities as using birth control or living with a partner out of wedlock. But critics have noted that Catholic morals clauses seem to get enforced mostly when gayness is involved.
“Many other employees of Catholic institutions whose public and private lives also do not support or convey church teachings are not being targeted or fired in this way,” Father James Martin, who wrote a book calling on his own church to be more accepting of gays and lesbians, said about the Kennedy Catholic case.
Obviously internal Catholic Church doings are its own affair, but it’s definitely notable that scores of parents, students and alumni at the school are mobilizing in protest. By the end of the workday Tuesday a GoFundMe fundraiser for the two teachers, cast out midyear, had raked in more than $33,000 — a strong sign that not everyone is acquiescing to these antiquated views.
But still, it’s been eight years since same-sex marriage passed in Washington state, and five years since it became law in all 50 states. None of the social calamities predicted by opponents have come to pass. I guess I naively thought the country was further along.
Yet here we have a core institution, the Archdiocese of Seattle, saying: No, it’s still not OK. It may be 2020, but you’re still not acknowledged as equal, no matter how great you are. In fact, you’re not accepted at all.
I guess I also hoped that the biggest issue holding back Pete Buttigieg’s bid for the presidency might be that his only political experience is running a city smaller than Renton.
But if you can’t be gay and proudly love your partner and teach English even here, at Kennedy High School in Burien, then it seems Rush Limbaugh had a point. Maybe we’re not ready. That this is a bigoted point doesn’t mean it isn’t sadly true. It’s also a wake-up call — that even after all the breakthroughs in gay civil rights, the work of actually achieving the promised equality is far from done.