Case Name: Lonnie Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School et al.
The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and the Tin Fulton Walker & Owen are representing Lonnie Billard, a former Teacher of the Year who was fired from Charlotte Catholic High School after announcing on Facebook that he was marrying his longtime partner, Rich. The lawsuit argues that Billard’s firing violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex and other characteristics.
Billard taught drama and English at Charlotte Catholic for more than a decade, both full-time and as a long-term substitute teacher. In 2012, Billard was named the school’s Teacher of the Year after being nominated by students. In October 2014 Billard wrote a Facebook post announcing his upcoming nuptials to his long-time partner, who often accompanied Lonnie to school events and was known in the community. Later that year, Billard was told he was terminated because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
“I know that the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, but I don’t think my commitment to my husband has any bearing on my work in the classroom,” Lonnie said. “I have never hidden the fact that I’m gay and my relationship with my partner was no secret at school. But whether or not the school previously knew that I am gay is not the point. People should be able to fall in love and get married without risking their jobs.”