A conservative advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a middle school English teacher in Ohio who says she was forced to resign after refusing to use her students' preferred pronouns. According to the lawsuit, officials at the Canton-area Jackson Memorial Middle School told Vivian Geraghty "she would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant" and follow the district policy of using names and pronouns consistent with students' gender identity, Law & Crime reports. Geraghty had told administrators she would not "participate in the social transition" of two students in her class because of her Christian beliefs.
Geraghty said she can't recognize anything other than "two distinct, complementary sexes" and doing otherwise "would violate biblical commands against dishonesty and lying," per Law & Crime. According to the lawsuit, Geraghty was told hours after an August meeting with administrators that her refusal to follow policy was "insubordination" and she had to resign. "Unwilling to violate her convictions and believing she had no other choice, Ms. Geraghty tendered her resignation," states the lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The lawsuit accuses officials of being unwilling to consider compromises like having Geraghty only refer to the students by their last names, or transferring them out of her class, the Canton Repository reports.
The lawsuit argues that Geraghty's constitutional rights were violated. It is seeking her immediate reinstatement, along with a declaration that the pronoun policy was unconstitutional. "This district always will strive to provide a safe, comfortable environment for all of our nearly 6,000 students in which to learn," Todd Porter, the school district's director of communications, told the Repository. "We have engaged legal counsel and we will have no further comment on pending litigation." The Alliance Defending Freedom has long been involved in cases pushing back on issues including LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. Earlier this year, it was involved in a case in which a professor at an Ohio university reached a settlement that allowed him to avoid using gender pronouns that he said offended his beliefs. (Read more pronouns stories.)