How This Florida Woman’s Case Impacts LGBTQ+ Workplace Discrimination

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8/2/21

Christie Leonard’s at Gospel Crusade seemed secure. But when her unfulfilling marriage to a man she didn’t desire fell apart amid rumors she had grown too close to another woman in her church, the Florida woman found herself unemployed. “When I separated from my husband and was going to move in with a woman, who was my best friend, that’s when they fired me,” Leonard says. She wasn’t engaged in a queer relationship; her friend, who also left a crumbling marriage around the same time, was straight. But as chatter about their sexuality swirled, it severed her relationship with Gospel Crusade, both as an employee and as a member of its affiliated congregation, Family Church. Now a legal challenge to her termination tests the limits of employment protections for workers in religious organizations. Do ministerial exemptions regarding discrimination apply to anyone working in a church or religious organization? While Leonard doesn’t label herself a member of the LGBTQ+ community — “At this point, I identify myself as nonsexual, and I consider myself an ally” — her case could deliver a watershed moment for queer rights.

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