August 25, 2010
By TARYN LUNA
The Dallas Morning News
On the surface, St. Vincent's Cathedral School of Bedford seemed like a perfect fit for Tracy and Jill Harrison's 4-year-old daughter.
It was a good school that would provide much more than your average day care center, Jill Harrison said. It was close to their home, and the hours matched the family's busy schedule.
The couple also thought that, as nondenominational Christians, their values would align with those taught at the school.
But there turned out to be a wide disparity in beliefs.
Less than one week before young Olivia's first day – and days after her teacher called to welcome her – the Harrisons learned that their lifestyle as a married lesbian couple made them a bad fit for St. Vincent's. Olivia was no longer welcome.
"I politely told them that we are in the 21st century. We've come a long way in 20 years, and I can't believe that they would deny a child access to a good school because of my relationship," Jill Harrison said.
Jill Harrison said she was upfront from the beginning of the admissions process and crossed out the word father on the application to write in the name of her wife, Tracy Harrison. The two married in Canada in 2006.
School administrators called her into a meeting to break the news Thursday, which was two weeks after a painless application process was completed with shot records and a birth certificate. The couple attended what they felt was a positive parents' night two days before, she said. . .
Lackland Bloom Jr., a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said the school's decision to not admit the child falls into a legal gray area.
Civil rights laws on behalf of the Harrisons could prevail over the school's right as a private institution to pick its students, Bloom said. But without a specific federal statute protecting the rights of the Harrisons as a married homosexual couple or their children, the school probably faces no legal repercussions.
"Basically, you end up with constitutional issues on both sides," Bloom said. "On the one hand you have freedom of religion and freedom of association, and on the other hand you have freedom from discrimination."
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