Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Court Revives Lawsuit After Gay Teacher Fired From Catholic School

Layton and Joshua Payne-Elliott

The Court of Appeals of Indiana has revived a lawsuit brought by a gay Catholic school teacher against the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

On Tuesday, the court — in a unanimous decision — reversed a lower court’s decision that had dismissed Joshua Payne-Elliott’s lawsuit against the archdiocese. Payne-Elliott had argued the archdiocese had violated his school contract when it made Cathedral High School fire him or have the school lose its Catholic designation.

Payne-Elliott had worked for the school for 13 years teaching social studies, according to the Associated Press. He was fired in June 2019 after the church required Catholic schools to enforce a clause that prohibited employees from marrying someone of the same sex.

His husband, Layton Payne-Elliott, taught at another private school in Indianapolis, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, which the archdiocese stripped of its Catholic identity because it refused to fire teachers in same-sex unions.

In August 2019, the archdiocese requested the case be dismissed while citing the First Amendment as its defense. It wasn’t dismissed until May of this year.

LGBTQ+ rights group Lambda Legal submitted a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Joshua Payne-Elliott, which was cited in the appeals ruling.

“What a wonderful unanimous appellate court ruling. Joshua Payne-Elliott just wanted the chance to make his case in court. The Indiana Court of Appeals today ruled that he will get that opportunity,” Greg Nevins, Lambda Legal senior counsel and director of the Employment Fairness Project, said in a statement.

Nevins added, “At a minimum, Payne-Elliott should be given the opportunity to present his case. His 13 years teaching at Cathedral High deserves no less, and we are grateful that the court agrees.”

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