A woman who was expelled from a theological college for marrying her partner is now suing the school for discrimination.
Joanna Maxon of Fort Worth, Texas was almost able to complete her degree from Fuller Theological Seminary last year. The 53-year-old was studying for a master of arts in theology, and she only needed a few more classes to finish her degree.
Then she was suddenly expelled for being in a same-sex marriage.
“I was approaching the end and looking forward to graduation and all that stuff,” Maxon told NBC OUT. “To have that taken away unexpectedly — I was a really good student — I was devastated by it.”
Maxon was single when she first applied to Fuller in 2015. She later married her partner. The school discovered the marriage through her 2016 tax return.
In 2018, administrators cited the school’s “sexual standard” in their expulsion of Maxon. In a statement to the press, the college added: “Students are informed of and explicitly agree to abide by these standards when applying to the institution.”
Nonetheless, Fuller is a college that accepts aid from the federal government, so it’s subject to Title IX rules against gender identity discrimination. (Some religious institutions request exemptions from Title IX rules based on their beliefs, but Fuller isn’t one of them, according to Maxon’s attorney.)
Maxon attempted to resolve the issue with the college directly. But since that was unsuccessful, she’s taking them to court. Her attorney filed a federal suit in California, where Fuller’s main campus is based, last week.
She’s suing for $500,000 in damages for “humiliation, emotional distress and other damages,” per the suit.
Meanwhile, Maxon is trying to decide whether to finish her degree at another college or not.