A lesbian couple in Eugene, Ore., have filed a lawsuit against a Catholic school after officials there declined to admit their daughter. Lee Inkmann, along with her partner, Trish Wilson, says the denial came because they are gay. They are seeking up to $550,000 in damages on behalf of their daughter.
The couple's attorney, Martha Walters, said she thinks the private school meets the definition of a place of public accommodation. That makes it subject to Eugene's city code, which forbids discrimination based on sex, marital status, domestic-partnership status, or sexual orientation, she argues. The suit names O'Hara Catholic School, principal Dianne Bert, St. Mary Catholic Church, and the Reverend Mark Bachmeier.
Bachmeier couldn't be reached for comment, and Bert referred questions to the archdiocese. In a prepared statement, spokesman Bud Bunce said the archdiocese plans a vigorous defense. "O'Hara Catholic School and the archdiocese of Portland do not discuss publicly details concerning school admissions of any particular child," he said. "However, it is believed that this situation was handled appropriately. The lawsuit filed includes numerous false statements of fact and is believed to be
totally without merit."
According to the suit, Inkmann told the principal about her domestic partner after a school tour last winter. A couple of weeks later, Bert informed her that the school wouldn't enroll their daughter, now 5, because her parents' relationship was opposed to Vatican teachings and would be confusing for other students and their parents, the suit alleges. Bachmeier later told Inkmann that the decision wasn't about "the gay issue" but rather about whether the girl was "behaviorally suitable" for the school, the suit alleges.