A teacher has won the federal anti-discrimination lawsuit she filed after she was sacked by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2010 because she got pregnant via artificial insemination.
On Monday, a jury in Cincinnati found that the church discriminated against teacher Christa Dias, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Jurors awarded her over $170,000. The precise itemization of the verdict is $100,000 in punitive damages, $20,000 in compensatory damages and $51,000 in back pay.
Two schools were also named as defendants. In its wisdom, the jury did not find those schools also liable.
In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Dias described her reaction to the verdict as “very happy and relieved.”
“It was never about the money,” she added, according to The Dispatch. “They should have followed the law and they didn’t.”
The teacher’s lawyer, Robert Klingler, had asked the substantially higher sum of $637,000.
During the trial, Kiplinger argued that Dias, who taught computer technology courses, lost her job because she became pregnant out of wedlock. As a result, he said, the archdiocese and the schools broke federal and state laws.
Kiplinger also argued that church policies are discriminatory because they don’t treat men and women equally.
Dias is not Catholic. She is, however, a lesbian and it seems obvious that she underwent artificial insemination so that she could have a child without entering into a traditional marriage.
Since neither Dias nor the defendants maintained that the plaintiff’s sexuality led to her termination, the judge instructed the jury not to consider her lesbianism in its decision.
When she testified, Dias said she had no idea that the Catholic Church rejects artificial insemination, or that it would violate the terms of employment. Instead, she testified that she believed that all she had to do was be a Christian and, according to The Dispatch, follow the Bible.
Steve Goodin, the attorney for the archdiocese, contended that Dias had breached her contract. The diocese requires its employees to follow the doctrines of the Catholic Church, he reasoned, and one of those doctrines is that artificial insemination is morally wrong.
Dias now resides in Atlanta with her lesbian partner and their two-year-old daughter, reports CBS News.
The archdiocese is widely expected to appeal, according to ABC News. On appeal, diocese lawyers will likely argue that the “ministerial exception” applies. It’s not clear if this exception would apply to a computer technology teacher.
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