- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A Roman Catholic school in Portland has changed its policy on hiring gay employees following the uproar over its decision to withdraw a job offer to a lesbian woman.

The St. Mary’s Academy board voted for the reversal Wednesday night, about 24 hours after it became public that the school rescinded the offer to 27-year-old Lauren Brown, a college counselor. St. Mary’s had also offered Brown six months of pay to not disclose the terms of the proposed settlement and refrain from criticizing the school.

In an email to parents, St. Mary’s president Christina Friedhoff said the school - though still “deeply committed” to its Catholic identity - was immediately adding sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.

“St. Mary’s is a diverse community that welcomes and includes gay and lesbian students, faculty, alumnae, parents and friends, including those that are married,” she wrote.

The position offered to Brown has since been filled, but the school says it will reach out to her and her attorney for a possible reconciliation.

Brown’s attorney, Gloria Trainor, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Willamette Week newspaper posted a story about the rescinded job offer Tuesday night, and the backlash in progressive Portland was immediate.

Students, alumni and people throughout the city criticized St. Mary’s, including Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and Mayor Charlie Hales. Boyle is a major donor to the all-girls school his wife attended.

Girls festooned a statue outside the downtown school with rainbow colors, a quote from Pope Francis and messages such as “Where’s the SMA we know and love?” The hashtag #fightforsma emerged on Twitter.

“St. Mary’s flunks a basic test of fairness. I stand with Lauren Brown,” tweeted City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Parents interviewed before Wednesday’s reversal said their daughters love the school and are encouraged to be outspoken. They said students were bewildered by the administration’s decision to reject Brown.

Stacey Ufer said her daughter, Sabrina, was shocked because it went against everything she learns at school.

“My religion teacher tells me to accept everybody - my religion teacher,” Ufer was told by her daughter. “She couldn’t process it in her 16-year-old brain. It didn’t jibe with her reality of what the school promotes.”

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