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Catholic worker fired after her same-sex marriage became public sues diocese

Thursday, July 17, 2014
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In this April 22, 2014 photo Colleen Simon fills an order for a family of seven at the food pantry of St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Mo. Jill Toyoshiba, AP

In this April 22, 2014 photo Colleen Simon fills an order for a family of seven at the food pantry of St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Mo.

A parish food pantry worker who was fired over her marriage to another woman sued the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Thursday, the latest in a growing number of clashes over gay rights between Roman Catholic leaders and their employees nationwide.

Colleen Simon, 57, said the diocese and the parish where she worked knew she was married and that her wife was a well-known community leader before Simon was hired. She was fired when the couple was mentioned last April in a newspaper article.

“I was mostly shell-shocked,” Simon said. “I hadn’t thought it would come to this.”

Diocesan officials hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit, but said in a statement, “As a church, we have the right to live and operate according to our faith and church teachings.”

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The Missouri lawsuit was filed Thursday by Colleen Simon, who said she worked as a parish bookkeeper in the diocese before she was hired in 2013 as a food pantry coordinator at St. Francis Xavier Church.

In each step of the hiring process, she said she told administrators she had married a woman a year earlier in Iowa, where gay marriage is recognized, and diocesan and parish representatives said her marital status would not be a problem.

Simon’s wife, the Rev. Donna Simon, is a pastor at a Kansas City congregation affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Colleen Simon said she underscored her wife’s public role in case the Jesuit parish had expectations the couple would be “discrete” about their marriage.

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