Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Cincinnati-Archdiocese-IVF

Cincinnati Archdiocese: ART Families Need Not Apply

In June 2013 an Ohio jury found the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati guilty of discrimination against an unmarried computer technology teacher, Christa Dias, who became pregnant and had a child via in vitro fertilization. Dias, a non-Catholic, was a lesbian, but the Archdiocese did not know that at the time of her firing; she was fired because she used assisted reproductive technology to conceive and bear a child. The Archdiocese immediately appealed the verdict to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals but then settled quietly out of court in a joint settlement with another teacher, Kathleen Quinlan, who also had a child via assisted reproductive technology and was fired explicitly because she was a lesbian, according to the New York Daily News.

The Cincinnati Archdiocese based its defense in the Dias case on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that religious organizations may fire employees who hold “ministerial” positions, a designation that was not conclusively defined, without government intervention. Dias’ attorney argued that she was a computer science teacher, not a “ministerial” employee, and therefore her case did not fall under the 2012 decision. The jury apparently agreed.

Fast forward a year from the Dias ruling, and the Archdiocese seems to have arrived at a solution: the teacher employment contract for the 2014-2015 school is headlined with the job title “Teacher-Minister.” The contract stipulates a laundry-list of specific behaviors that teachers must promise to avoid:

Teacher-Minister also agrees to exemplify Catholic principles and to refrain from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the School or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals. Such conduct or lifestyle that is in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals includes, but is not limited to, improper use of social media/communication, public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, public membership in organizations whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals, and/or flagrant deceit or dishonesty.

The teachers of the Archdiocese are not taking the forced change in their contractual obligation lying down. Two weeks ago, at least a hundred “teachers, parents and parishioners” took to the streets in protest, according to WCPO/Channel 9, and some 24,000 supporters have signed a petition asking that the offending clause be removed from the contract.

Representatives for the Archdiocese maintain the contract is no different in intention from the contract used the prior year but merely lists specific prohibited behaviors. They say despite the protests the new contract will remain in use.

The Cincinnati cases were two among a rash of similar U.S. cases in the past few years that test how much latitude religious institutions have in discriminating against employees who do not adhere to the tenets of the religion. A February Mother Jones report lists 10 examples from schools affiliated with various religious denominations; in each case the employee was fired for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock under varying circumstances. The cases are indicative of the continuing culture war in which conservative religious institutions are struggling to balance tradition and theology with the need to remain relevant and welcoming to new generations of followers. It is sad when religious authorities equate life-enhancing technologies such as surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, which enable so many people to experience the joy of parenthood, and a personal quality such as sexual orientation, so integral to one’s individuality, with sin and dishonesty. The implications for a gay student in a Cincinnati Archdiocese school, or a student with a single mom or dad or same-sex parents, are heartbreaking: no support forthcoming. As ever it seems, two steps forward, one step back.

 

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.