Dani Morantez, 26, is a mom and a wife. She also used to be a social worker with the Burlington Salvation Army. Morantez was hired to help homeless and low-income families find affordable child care and keep their lights on. It was a job she loved.
"It was going really, really well," she said. "The regional social worker had said that I was the perfect fit for the area."
But a few months into the job she was asked to sign an employee handbook that outlined the rules and regulations of the Christian organization. She found some of the beliefs disturbing.
"They couldn't hire or fire you necessarily because of your sexual orientation. However, if you acted on it or acted immorally then they could fire you, if that didn't line up with the church," Morantez said.
This made Morantez nervous because the Salvation Army didn't know about her personal life.
"Both my husband and I are bisexual, so we actually have an open marriage," she explained.
They've been married five years and have a 3-year-old daughter together. So, Morantez says most people assume she's heterosexual. Her family was completely dependent on her income, so she signed the handbook. But then she felt so guilty about the double life she was leading, she decided to come clean to her boss.
"She was wonderful when I gave her the letter. She was like I'm so grateful that you were transparent with us and she was super kind," Morantez said.
Morantez says the Burlington corps assured her that coming out would not impact her employment. Three days later she says she was blindsided.
"When I walked into the office both my supervisors were crying," Morantez said. "They said that they were so sorry, but it came from above them and they had to fire me and that they had to walk me off the property right away."
"Any time you are dealing with a religious organization and its employees you have a tension," said Jerry O'Neill, a legal expert.
O'Neill says that tension is based on balancing the rights of religious organizations with protecting employees from discrimination. In her termination papers, the Salvation Army says Morantez was fired because her personal beliefs and position did not align with theirs and she was no longer the best match for the job. Craig Evans, a spokesperson from the Salvation Army regional offices in Maine, told us Morantez was not fired because of her sexual orientation. Evans said she was terminated during her 90-day probation period because it became clear to them that she was not comfortable with their Christian mission.
O'Neill says the law only protects religious organizations if the employee is working in a ministerial role.
"If it's the fact that she's lesbian, bisexual, they have a problem," O'Neill said.
Morantez is taking her case to the attorney general. We checked in the AG's civil rights unit. Staff would not say if they're reviewing her paperwork or taking her case.
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