Court Rules in Favor of Lesbian Teacher

Court Rules in Favor of Lesbian Teacher

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Richard Piatt reporting For five years, Spanish Fork High school teacher Wendy Weaver says she's been under attack, after she admitted she was homosexual. Today, the Utah Supreme Court handed down a ruling in her favor.

The court's ruling comes after parents in the Nebo school district sued to fire Weaver, saying her lesbian lifestyle is unacceptable.

But the Supreme Court today unanimously rejected the lawsuit. It actually ruled this is not an issue for the courts.

Weaver and the ACLU call that a victory, but this may not be the end of her battle.

Wendy Weaver now goes by Wendy Chandler--a name change that coincides with her attempts to get on with her life, after years of struggling to affirm her lifestyle.

"I think the one thing that's been really good for me is it's allowed me to be who I am, in public as well as in private. So I'm grateful for all we've been through for that reason," Chandler says.

Chandler's struggle began in 1997, while she was coaching the Spanish Fork High School women's vollyball team. Some parents accused her of promoting her lesbian lifestyle, suing first to gag her from talking about it.

That effort failed, sparking another lawsuit. That sought to outright fire her for being unfit to teach, because she's a lesbian.

Today's Supreme Court ruling says a lawsuit isn't the proper way to fire Chandler, a ruling interpreted by her attorney Stephen Clark this way: "Today the dismissal of those plaintiff's claims, I think sends a strong signal to all public school teachers and public employees that they do have a right to be out and open and honest about their life, and still render valuable public service."

But today attorney Matthew Hilton indicated this is not the end of the effort to fire Chandler. Hilton says some Nebo School District parents plan to pursue the case through the local and state school boards. But Chandler says she will keep standing up for herself, and what many people say is a successful teaching career.

"What they were having problems with had nothing to do with my teaching. It had to do with my personal life. And that shouldn't be a valid arguement for anybody," she says.

Like it or not, Wendy Chandler has become a reluctant symbol for gay civil rights, a role she's apparently going to have to shoulder a bit longer.

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