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Photo: Barb Mariani and Tippi McCullough

Photo: Barb Mariani and Tippi McCullough

An Arkansas teacher has demanded an apology after being fired by her Catholic school for marrying her lesbian partner.

Tippi McCullough was given her “vocal pink slip” on her wedding day after marrying partner Barb Mariani in New Mexico, where same-sex marriage is legal.

She has no intention of asking for her job back but wants Mount St Mary school to apologise and also to adopt a non-discrimination policy.

The lesbian couple spoke at a protest rally yesterday organised by activist group Human Rights Campaign which has collected 50,000 online petition signatures in support of the women.

Ms McCullough claims the school knew she was a lesbian and was aware of her relationship.

She was contacted by the school and warned not to go ahead with the wedding – 45 minutes after the ceremony.

After confirming the wedding had taken place, principal Diane Wolfe rang back and fired her.

I never thought this day would come, but I have to terminate you.”

No law protects Ms McCullough as Catholic school policy dictates staff can be dismissed for leading a lifestyle contrary to church teachings.

I was devastated,” she told the Houston Chronicle. “I would never have purposefully blown up my life like this.”

Ms Mariani was understandably upset her partner had been singled out for “violating” the school's morality clause.

It is impossible to believe that the first call we received after the most joyous occasion of our lives was a vocal pink slip,” she said.

They hire people who aren't Catholic, with a lot of different belief systems.

It's disturbing to me that no straight teacher is called in and asked if she's using birth control or unmarried and having premarital sex with a boyfriend.”

Mount St Mary president Karen Flake said the school was being consistent in its approach.

Sometimes adherence to the church's teaching may be difficult, challenging and/or unpopular.

We recognise that some may disagree with our actions, and we respect their right to do so,” she said.

It was reported that Ms McCullough, who had been at the school for 15 years, was offered a “glowing recommendation” letter and told she could voluntarily resign.

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said: “To fire a beloved teacher simply because she is gay is morally reprehensible.”

In Australia, religious schools have the right to sack gay and lesbian teachers based on their sexuality.


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