By Ian Millhiser
The Trump administration filed an unusual brief in a dispute between a gay teacher and the Catholic Church on Friday. Should the administration’s position be adopted by courts, it could expand the universe of employers who are allowed to defy laws banning discrimination in the workplace.
The case is Payne-Elliott v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and it involves a gay man who, until recently, was a teacher at a Catholic school in Indianapolis. Some time after plaintiff Joshua Payne-Elliott got married in 2017, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis ordered the school to fire Payne-Elliott because he married a man.
The archbishop informed the school that it would be stripped of its Catholic identity and would no longer be affiliated with the church if it did not comply with the order to fire Payne-Elliott. After what the school described as “22 months of earnest discussion and extensive dialogue with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis about Cathedral’s continued Catholic identity,” the school ultimately decided to capitulate to the archbishop’s demand, and Payne-Elliott was fired last June. Payne-Elliott responded by suing the archdiocese.
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