It’s still perfectly legal in 32 states to fire someone for being LGBT.
Texas is one of them, and a Lubbock social worker found this out the hard way recently.
Casey Stegall, a caretaker for children in the foster care system, was fired by the Children’s Home of Lubbock after he reportedly introduced some teenage clients to his fiance during an outing at a water park on the Fourth of July.
Officials at the Children’s Home, which is affiliated with a Christian church, accused Stegall of engaging in a public display of affection with another man — but gave him no opportunity to defend himself against the allegation.
“As a faith-based, church-related outreach providing welfare services, if you will, to children and families, there is a set of biblical values that we adhere to and live by,” Children’s Home President Lynn Harms told The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal for a story about Stegall’s firing. “When you are implementing life training and so forth — particularly with children — to put a confused message out there is counterproductive.”
“If you want to try to force our culture to meet your expectations, that’s not going to go well,” Harms added. “I don’t feel like the culture here has to meet an individual’s desire for the world to be different.”
Harms told the Avalanche-Journal that the Children’s Home has other gay employees who “fly under the radar” and that being gay is not a fireable offense. However, Harms said other gay employees have been fired for similar reasons based on “how they conduct their business here.”
Harms went on to compare being gay to being sexually promiscuous, or acting ungodly or aggressive.
“Presenting a lifestyle that is damaging to kids could be a whole lot of things,” Harms said, adding that some of the children at the facility have been sexually abused. “It gets garbled in terms of sexual identity, sexual preferences, fears, concerns, retraumatization.”
Stegall, a churchgoing Christian himself, said he told Harms they both read the same Bible. However, despite a spotless employment record spanning more than a year, Stegall didn’t get an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations.
Stegall, who has a degree in human development and family studies from Texas Tech University, said he’s always wanted to work with troubled youth. Devastated by his termination, he’s contacted attorneys about filing a lawsuit but is now focused on publicizing the incident.
“I want my case out there so that people know that this is happening to people like me,” he said.
Polls show a majority of Americans mistakenly believe it is already illegal to fire someone for being gay.
Although Texas has no statewide law banning anti-LGBT employment discrimination, several cities have adopted municipal ordinances. Lubbock is not one of them, but Mayor Glen Robertson told the Avalanche-Journal he’d be open to the idea.
Last week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban anti-LGBT discrimination by other private employers, remains stalled in the U.S. House.
A version of ENDA that passed the Senate last fall may provide a religious exemption for organizations such as the Children’s Home of Lubbock. However, several LGBT groups have dropped their support for that version of the bill because they believe the religious exemption is too broad.
Watch a video of Stegall discussing his termination below.