Denied a Job for Acknowledging His Husband
A few of the things Matt Barrett never expected to happen in his life: to be denied a job because he had a husband; to be part of a civil rights lawsuit; to be standing on a stage speaking through a microphone to 1,000 people.
But all of those things happened. Matt grew up Catholic on the South Shore of Massachusetts in the 1980s. As a food lover, he became a cook and had a career in corporate catering. He met Ed Suplee in 2007, and they got married in 2012 in Provincetown in front of family and friends and their two dogs, Felony and Judge.
In 2013, Matt applied to be the Food Services Director at Fontbonne Academy, a Catholic girls’ prep school.
“The Fontbonne job seemed ideal for me,” says Matt. He knew the school was Catholic, but didn’t anticipate any problems since it was a behind-the-scenes job. Just to be safe, he checked in with a family friend who is a nun with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Order that runs Fontbonne. She said, “Matthew – they will just love you!”
And they did. Matt was offered the job, and he accepted. He gave notice at his previous job, and spread the word among his family and friends. But his excitement didn’t last – two days later he was called back to Fontbonne for a meeting about an “issue.”
The “issue” was that in filling out his emergency contact form, Matt had written Ed’s name, and where it said “relationship”, Matt wrote “husband.” The head of school told Matt that they couldn’t hire him because he was married to a man, which is against their religious beliefs – but she admired him for his honesty.
Matt said, “It never occurred to me to lie about Ed, and I never would lie about Ed. But if I had written ‘friend’ or ‘roommate,’ I would have the job.”
GLAD filed suit on behalf of Matt in Massachusetts Superior Court, asserting that the school discriminated against him based on his sex and his sexual orientation. “Matt’s situation is part of a pattern we’re seeing play out across the country,” says Senior Attorney Bennett Klein, who is representing Matt along with Legal Director Gary Buseck and GLAD’s founder John Ward. ”Certain religiously-affiliated employers are responding to marriage equality by attempting to improperly extend the reach of exemptions from obeying non-discrimination laws that are a backbone of our society,”
The Superior Court is hearing argument on the parties’ motions for summary judgment on December 1.
In telling his story at GLAD’s Spirit of Justice Dinner, Matt said, “I have never been an activist of any kind. And in my heart, I’m still not. But once I saw how wrong it was, what had happened to me, I felt like I had to do something to make it right.”