This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
In June, Margie Winters, the director of religious education at Waldron Mercy Academy in Lower Merion, was let go.
The ostensible reason? Winters is in a same-sex marriage with her long-term partner, Andrea Vettori.
The case — and the murky circumstances around Winters’ firing — has become a lightning rod for how the Catholic church treats LGBTQ members. Winters and about 40 of her supporters dropped off a petition with more than 22,000 signatures on Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput’s doorstep in Center City.
It calls on Chaput to put a "moratorium on the firing of LGBT employees" and "to ask Catholic schools before he gets involved with the hiring or firing of staff, in particular their lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual staff."
The petition was prepared by Christian social justice organization Faithful America, with the support of Winters.
Although supporters initially called for Winters to be reinstated, the petition and Winters own words move the activism out of the realm of individual grievances and into one of seismic shifts within the Catholic church.
Initial outcry by parents and supporters of Winters led to meetings, a "Stand with Margie" Facebook page, and a GoFundMe account with a $25,000 goal for the teacher. Winters said she is no longer seeking to be reinstated so the academy can move on and prepare for the coming school year.