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Molly Shumate, a veteran Cincinnati Archdiocese teacher, at home with her son, Zach. / Leigh Taylor, Cincinnati Enquirer

When veteran Catholic school teacher Molly Shumate's son Zachery revealed he was gay, she gave him a hug and told him she would always love and support him.

Now that support has resulted in her leaving her job after 14 years of teaching, all because of new, controversial "morality" clauses that have been added to the teacher contracts in the Archdiocese school system in Ohio.

Though not unique among Catholic schools nationwide, the "morality" clauses are a first for the 19-county Archdiocese school system. They have ignited a public battle, including a protest march, online petitions and 12 newly erected billboards in the area.

"For me to sign this (contract), I feel like I would be telling my son I've changed my mind, that I don't support him as I did. And I won't do that," Shumate said to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The contract - exclusively obtained and reported by The Enquirer in March - includes provisions that for the first time details prohibited practices such as gay "lifestyles" or public endorsements of homosexuality, out-of-wedlock relationships, abortions and fertility methods that go against Catholic teachings.

However, Cincinnati Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco contends that this year's contract is no different than prior years'.

"Nobody who signed this year's contract or last year's contract should hesitate to sign the 2014 to 2015 agreement. They all say the same thing - that the teacher will not publicly act or speak against the teachings of the Catholic Church," Andriacco said.

Catholic School superintendent Jim Rigg agrees, stating, "Our culture is changing rapidly in this area, and many of our school employees, including me, have family members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The contract does not stipulate that relationships or love for LGBT relatives should be severed."

However, the local community is still speaking out over the contract.

Tim Garry Jr., a local attorney who opposes the language, met with Archdiocese officials in April in an unsuccessful attempt to get them to modify the contract.

"The leadership of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is not a democracy, and there has been little to no indication that it will voluntarily respond favorably to any request for change to their Catholic School teachers' contract, no matter how reasonable or modest those changes might be," he said.

The group Cincinnati Voice of the Faithful, which challenges the church's transparency, is behind the new billboards.

Group coordinator Kathy Weyer said, "We believe that the Cincinnati Archdiocese is being dishonest with the teachers by suggesting that the changes to the wording and job description of the teacher contract are not that much different from past years. What is really happening is that the church is protecting itself from possible future lawsuits."

But amid the controversy are real people, like Molly and Zachery Shumate.

"It's hard to put into words how proud I am of her," Zachery said. "For her to step into the public eye like this ... speaks volumes about the kind of person she is."

Contributing: Lindsay Deutsch, USA TODAY Network



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Catholic school teacher with gay son quits in protest

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