A Portland Catholic girls’ school continues to grapple with controversy after school leaders rescinded a job offer to an openly gay woman.
St. Mary’s Academy changed the school’s employment policy Wednesday night, after a backlash from parents, students, and alumnae.
“This evening the board of St. Mary’s Academy voted unanimously to support the administration’s recommendation to amend and broaden St. Mary’s policy on equal employment, bringing our employment policies in line with our mission and beliefs,” the school said in a press release Wednesday. “Effective immediately, St. Mary’s has added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.
“St. Mary’s is a diverse community that welcomes and includes gay and lesbian students, faculty, alumnae, parents and friends, including those that are married. We are proud of our work preparing the next generation of women leaders for service and leadership. We are still deeply committed to our Catholic identity.”
The Archdiocese of Portland said the policy change could put St. Mary’s in jeopardy of losing its church association.
“Any church institution that doesn’t follow canon law is in jeopardy of being disassociated with the church. Whether that happens this time, time will tell, but it is a possibility,” said David Renshaw, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland.
Some supporters of the policy change aren’t satisfied, either. That’s because the school has not re-hired Lauren Brown, the woman in the center of the controversy.
A St. Mary’s Academy senior, Charlotte Carlsen, spoke to OPB about how she and her classmates are reacting to the school’s recent decisions, particularly the move to rescind Brown’s job offer.
“I felt like the school that I love so much was not acting in a way that it had acted all my years of going there,” Carlsen said. “I felt pain for my sisters who went there who were LGBTQ, and I felt like it was a big loss for the movement.”
Officials released a statement explaining why they are not planning to re-hire Lauren Brown as a college counselor at the school. It’s from school president, Christina Friedhoff.
“In preparation for school, which starts on Monday, we offered another candidate the position. We will be reaching out to Ms. Brown and Ms. Brown’s attorney and are open to further discussions with her about reconciliation.”
Brown has also released a statement to Willamette Week, reacting to the decision to allow the hiring of openly-gay people.
“The students, parents, and alumni of St. Mary’s Academy should be so proud today,” Brown wrote. “In 24 hours, they came together to speak up for what they know is right. This success shows that together we really can move mountains.”
But her pride at the policy change is tempered with disappointment that St. Mary’s Academy is not moving to offer her the job back.
“Unfortunately, St. Mary’s stated last night that they filled the position with someone else, but also that they will be reaching out to my attorney and me in hopes of ‘reconciliation,’” Brown wrote. “Although we have not yet been contacted, I am open to listening to what they have to say.”