A Catholic archdiocese in the U.S. violated anti-discrimination laws when it fired a teacher who became pregnant via artificial insemination, a federal jury said Monday, and it awarded her more than $170,000.
The case is seen as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations in the U.S. can regulate employees' lives.
Christa Dias said she was "very happy and relieved" with the verdict.
Dias was fired by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati in October 2010 after informing two schools of her pregnancy, according to her attorney, Robert Klingler. He argued that she was fired simply because she was pregnant and unmarried.
Dias, who is not Catholic, testified she didn't know artificial insemination violated church doctrine or the employment agreement. She said she thought the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible.
Archdiocese says she violated contract
Dias claimed that church policies are not enforced equally against men and women.
Steven Goodin, the attorney for the archdiocese and the schools, said Dias was fired for violating her contract and that Dias, who is gay, never intended to abide by it.
She kept her sexual orientation a secret because she knew that homosexual acts also would violate that contract, Goodin said.
Neither Dias nor the archdiocese claim she was fired because she is gay.
Dias now lives in Atlanta with her partner and their 2-year-old daughter.
While Goodin said a decision would be made later on whether to appeal, legal experts believe it will definitely end up in an appeals court.