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Teacher Speaks Publicly after Being Fired for Marrying Partner

Tippi McCollough was fired last Wednesday after returning from a trip to New Mexico, where she had just been married to Barb Mariani, her partner for 14 years.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- A teacher at catholic private school Mount St. Mary Academy spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday since being fired after marrying her long-time partner.

Tippi McCollough says walking in to Mount St. Mary, where she was a teacher for 15 years, to collect her things on Monday was the hardest day of her life.

McCullough was fired last Wednesday after returning from a trip to New Mexico, where she had just been married to Barb Mariani, her partner for 14 years.

"Receiving that news, 45 minutes after the judge declared us married, seemed shocking and especially cruel," said McCullough.

The former teacher acknowledges that her contract with the school contained a morality clause, but says she was never approached by the school about violating it until she was married.

"I certainly make mistakes, I've made mistakes in many ways, but I've certainly tried to live what I think of as a moral life," she said.

Mariani says their relationship wasn't much of a secret, and there are many ways to violate the morality clause.

"I think it's very surprising," Mariani said. "First of all, we've been together for 14 years, she's been teaching there for 15 years. It's not a secret. But aside from us, the moral clause covers a lot of things in the catholic church, such as birth control, premarital sex, I mean those are two big issues."

The Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), held a news conference Tuesday, where plenty of supporters cheered McCullough.

A petition in support of the couple has gained 50,000 signatures from citizens across the country standing with the couple, asking for an apology from the school and a non-discriminatory policy to protect future teachers.

Tippi says she doesn't know what her life holds now, she just wants to see her family in Hot Springs and figure out where she is going to work.
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