An unprecedented ruling. Superior Court Associate Justice Douglas Wilkins’ decision last week ordered Fontbonne Academy, a Catholic girls school, to hire a “gay” man.
The judge said Fontbonne discriminated against plaintiff Matthew Barrett when officials rescinded a food service director position in 2013. Barrett was denied the job after school administrators realized he was in a same-sex union.
“On the undisputed facts, Barrett has shown he is a protected class, that he was qualified (and even received an offer) for the position of Food Service Director, that he suffered denial of employment, that the reason for the denial was his sexual orientation and that he suffered harm as a result,” the judge wrote. “This proves sexual-orientation discrimination as a matter of law on the undisputed facts.”
Barrett’s lawyers from Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders cheered Wilkins’ ruling as the “first of its kind in the country,” Buzzfeed reported Thursday.
Wilkins’ said Fontbonne’s expressive association argument was invalid because administrators were free to publicly denounce the court’s decision.
“The widespread public awareness of the civil laws allowing same-sex marriage and prohibiting employment discrimination, coupled with Fontbonne’s ability to explain its position without interference in the form of advocacy from Barrett, leaves little risk that Fontbonne’s involuntary compliance with civil law will be mistaken for endorsement of same-sex marriage,” Wilkins wrote.
WND reported that Wilkins said the school failed to show how hiring Barrett would constitute a “serious” burden to the institution before adding that certain freedoms of expression can be overridden when there are “compelling state interests.”
The conservative website National Review excoriated the judge for his ruling.
“By that standard, expressive association becomes meaningless. After all, if a court can jam Christian employers with employees who don’t share their values – and then contend that the employers’ rights are protected if they’re still free to complain about it – then the floodgates are open,” the magazine wrote Friday.
Fontbonne’s other defenses – a statutory exemption and a ministerial exception – were also denied.
Wilkins said a statutory exemption would only apply to the school if all employees and students had to be Catholic. He said the ministerial exception did not apply since Barrett was not a teacher or in a position to engage in public advocacy on behalf of the school.
National Review called the ruling “ominous” before quoting Reason magazine’s November issue: “Now that government discrimination is largely tamed, ‘gay’ activists are going after private behavior, using the government as a bludgeon.”
Fontbonne has not said whether or not it will appeal the ruling.