May 9, 2016
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) today announced a final resolution in the case Barrett v. Fontbonne Academy, in which a Catholic girls’ high school in Milton, MA rescinded an employment offer as food services manager to Matt Barrett, a gay man, upon learning that Matt was married to a man.
The settlement follows a first-of-its-kind ruling from the Massachusetts Superior Court in December 2015. The court found that Fontbonne discriminated against Barrett on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, in direct violation of Massachusetts non-discrimination laws, and rejected Fontbonne’s claims to an exemption based on its religious beliefs. That decision can be read here.
With Fontbonne electing not to appeal the ruling, the parties reached a settlement on the damages to be paid to Barrett, the amount of which is confidential under the terms of the agreement.
“I’m very happy, not just for myself, but for anyone else who may ever be fired from their job simply because of who they are,” said Barrett. “The humiliation that I went through should not be experienced by anyone else.”
“Non-discrimination laws are vitally important to our civil society,” said Bennett Klein, Senior Attorney at GLAD. “We hope that the consequences for Fontbonne’s discriminatory conduct will not only send a strong message to religious institutions about their legal obligations, but will also move them toward treating LGBT people with the respect and dignity that everyone deserves.”
In rejecting Fontbonne’s constitutional claims asserting rights of free exercise of religion and expressive association, Associate Justice Douglas H. Wilkins wrote, “The state has a compelling interest in prohibiting discrimination against historically disadvantaged people,” citing cases from the U.S. Supreme Court addressing race and sex discrimination. He continued, “That interest is rarely stronger than in the employment context…”
Barrett was born and raised in a Catholic family. He has worked in the food services industry for 20 years, and lives in Dorchester with his husband Ed Suplee.
In addition to Klein, Barrett is represented by GLAD attorney Gary Buseck and GLAD’s founder, John Ward.