Woman sues KC diocese for firing her over sexual orientation

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A parish food pantry worker who was fired over her marriage to another woman is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Colleen Simon says a human resources director wrote a letter to Simon stating that the reason for her termination was because of "an irreconcilable conflict between the laws, discipline and teaching of the Catholic Church."

It listed her relationship to a person of the same sex as one of the reasons for her termination, according to Simon.

Simon worked for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 1001 E 52nd St., as Director of Social Ministries. She says when she applied for the job, she told them she was gay and married to Reverend Donna Simon, who works at another church.

"During my interview with the pastor, I shared that I am married and that many people in Kansas City know about us," Simon said. "I could not have been more transparent."

She was fired when the couple was mentioned last April in a newspaper article in the Kansas City Star's 816 magazine about her pantry work.

"After I was employed, my wife, like any spouse attended a fundraiser at the food pantry, and many of my co-workers had the opportunity to meet her as my spouse," Simon said.

A spokesperson for the diocese told FOX 4 that no one could speak on camera on Thursday about the lawsuit because they had not yet received and reviewed it, but they did issue a statement that said, "As a church we have the right to live and operate according to our faith and church teachings." The statement also said that while it regrets the litigation, it will defend its "constitutional freedom to practice our faith and uphold the integrity of our mission and public witness."

The Missouri lawsuit is among a growing number of clashes over gay rights between Catholic leaders and their employees.

Dioceses in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Honolulu; Oakland, California, and elsewhere have added morals clauses to their teacher contracts barring public support for gay rights. As a result, more than 15 employees have lost their jobs or resigned since 2010.

"This is the job I always dreamed of, the job I always wanted, and the job I want back," said Simon. "Like anyone who loses something that they love dearly, I am heartbroken."

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