According to a report released December 13 by Law360, Charlotte Catholic High School has asked the Fourth Circuit Court to undo a Title VII victory for Lonnie Billard, an English and Drama teacher who sued the school for firing him after he announced his upcoming wedding on social media.
In the case Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School, Charlotte Catholic claims it should be allowed to fire civilian employees and given blanket exemption from the law as a religious institution.
A federal court in North Carolina previously ruled September 3, 2021, that Charlotte Catholic High School violated Title VII when it fired Billard for announcing his plans in a Facebook post in 2014 to marry his longtime same-sex partner, Richard Donham.
At the time he was fired, Billard had retired, but was continuing to serve as a regular substitute teacher. According to a report in the Charlotte Observer, Billard began working for the school in 2001, had never attempted to hide his sexual orientation and was also chosen as teacher of the year in 2012.
“After all this time, I have a sense of relief and a sense of vindication. I wish I could have remained in teaching all this time,” said Billard, the lead plaintiff in case. “Today’s decision validates that I did nothing wrong by being a gay man.”
Billard, who was in his 60s at the time he was fired by Catholic High School, is now 76 and facing serious health challenges.
Earlier in December, a coalition of Christian organizations and churches – in support of Billard and all LGBTQ teachers from across the state of North Carolina – urged the Fourth Circuit to uphold the Title VII victory against Catholic High School.
This case is continuing to unfold and the story will be updated as it is released.