After being fired for having a same-sex spouse, Margie Winters, the former Director of Religious Education at a Philadelphia Catholic school, appeared on CNN for an interview with her wife this Saturday. She stated her intention as not to fight for her job or pursue legal action, but to "raise awareness of this in the community, and in particular, in the Catholic community."
Margie and GLAAD have worked together closely to share the Winters' family's story.
Waldron Mercy Academy, the school involved, hired Margie in 2007 knowing she is a lesbian, and advised that she only speak of her partner to fellow faculty and staff. This June, however, a parent discovered Margie's marriage to a woman, Andrea, and filed a complaint to both Waldron Mercy administration and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia about Margie's spouse and certain curriculum changes. On June 22, Margie was fired following her refusal to resign.
Since the termination of Margie's tenure with Waldron Mercy, an outpouring of support for Margie and Andrea has come from social media and Philadelphia community members. #StandWithMargie has been trending on Twitter, and a corresponding Facebook Page has gained over 11,000 likes. Around 200 families from Waldron Mercy gathered on July 8 to stand in solidarity with Margie and Andrea.
— Stand With Margie (@StandWithMargie) July 20, 2015
The Catholic Church has a long history of the Holy Spirit, working through the faithful's voices of dissent, to be heard. #standwithmargie
— Joan McConnon (@jmcconnon) July 18, 2015
Although the Archbishop of Philadelphia sided with the complaints of the parent, Margie and Andrea are still deeply committed to their Catholic faith. Of her time teaching religious education as a lesbian, Margie Winters told CNN's Michael Smerconish,
There was never a conflict with my job […] The conflict is with the understanding of the teachings of the Church. For me it's a conflict of vision of who we are as Church […] The marriage issue goes to who I am as a person, and who God made me as.
Margie and Andrea hope to meet with the Pope to tell their story when he visits the United States for the first time in September. Andrea noted what she sees as Pope Francis' leanings toward LGBT inclusion, and said of His Holiness, "He has shown that he really wants to get to know the people that he shepherds, and that's really all we're asking: just to get to know us."
— New Ways Ministry (@NewWaysMinistry) July 16, 2015
Even though Waldron Mercy Academy's decision shows the Catholic Church has a long way to go to accelerate acceptance for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) worshippers, the story of Margie and Andrea emphasizes that faith and LGBT identity are not mutually exclusive. Andrea and Margie are still devout in their beliefs. Andrea is hopeful for a more inclusive Church:
When Christ walked the earth, he railed against the hierarchy for trying to exclude people, by using the laws of the faith at that time to exclude people. If that's not happening now, I don't know what else this is.