Teacher fired for marrying partner speaks publicly

A crowd of supporters gathered for Tuesday's press conference hosted by the Human Rights Campaign

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - A former Mount Saint Mary high school teacher spoke out Tuesday about being fired because she married her partner of 14 years.

Tippi McCullough said at a press conference, "I am the same person I was a week ago. That is why it is hard to grasp this firing by Mount Saint Mary."

McCullough was an English teacher at the school for 15 years until Monday, October 21, when she had to clean out her desk for violating a morals agreement all teachers at Mount St. Mary Academy sign.

As she took the stage Tuesday, McCullough received a standing ovation in a packed room. She said, "Receiving this news 45 minutes after the judge declared us married seemed shocking and especially cruel. If you can picture this, we had just arrived back at the car so happy and then the phone rang. 'You are fired'."

Her partner, Barbara Mariani said that they did not think they would face retribution from the school because, "The moral clause covers a lot of things in the Catholic Church such as birth control or premarital sex. I mean those are two big issues. So I thought there was just application at Mount. Saint Mary's. It was don't ask, don't' tell."

McCullough added, "I would say I want my job back but I don't know if that is a possibility under the type of circumstances it would create."

While the school would not comment directly on the matter, calling it a personnel issue, the school's president and CEO, Karen Flake, said in a statement that:

"As a Catholic school, we adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and are committed to the vision that has guided us for more than 160 years.

"Sometimes adherence to the Church's teachings may be difficult, challenging and/or unpopular. We recognize that some may disagree with our actions, and we respect their right to do so. We also value the continuing support and understanding shown by the Diocese of Little Rock and the many others who recognize that, as a Catholic school, our actions must be aligned with what we believe and teach."

Click here to read the school's entire statement.

Current sophomore, 15-year-old Jillian Gullett, started an online petition in support of her teacher.

She said, "When I was younger and learned about the civil rights movement in school, I always thought that if I lived in that time, I would be on the right side of things. Now this is happening and I am on the right side of things."

Tuesday's press conference was hosted by the Human Rights Campaign - an advocacy group that promotes civil rights for homosexuals.