Former Charlotte Catholic teacher says he was fired after same-sex marriage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A former teacher is suing Charlotte Catholic High School and the diocese of Charlotte, claiming that he was fired because he married his same-sex partner.

Lonnie Billard was a longtime teacher at Charlotte Catholic. He retired and stayed on as a regular substitute teacher.

Billard said that during his 13 years as a teacher at Charlotte Catholic, not only did people know he was gay, but his partner even attended school events with him and was invited by school leaders to attend.

He married his partner in 2014 and claims he was told that he could no longer teach at the school after he announced his marriage on Facebook.

"People at school congratulated us and all of that, and then all of a sudden, I'm not employed anymore," Billard said.

Billard said his Facebook post announcing his marriage publicly is what got him in trouble.

"I didn't believe I did anything wrong, and I still don't believe I did anything wrong," Billard said.

Billard has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the school and the diocese. The lawsuit states that his sexual orientation was common knowledge among the school's students, parents, alumni, staff and administration.

The suit also claims that the school could no longer employ the plaintiff because he announced on Facebook his intention to marry a same-sex partner.

The American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing Billard, Chris Brook, said even though the case involves a religious institution, Billard's job was a secular post, so his dismissal is discriminatory.

"Lonnie was the 2012 Teacher of the Year, a remarkable teacher, who was fired because he's gay," Brook said.

He is seeking reinstatement, back pay and benefits, and punitive damages.

Channel 9 contacted the diocese for comment, which wrote back in an email saying, "The Diocese of Charlotte has not received any paperwork. Typically we don't discuss ongoing litigation."

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