Olivia Harrison is just like every 4-year-old girl at this time of year. Getting excited to start pre-school, getting her school supplies and ready to learn with new friends that she would make. The only difference between her and her classmates is she has two mommies who happen to be a married Lesbian couple. Now little Olivia can not go to the school she was told all summer she would be attending.
In June, Jill Harrison filled out an application for her daughter to attend St. Vincent’s School a private Christian school in Bedford, Texas. They had researched schools that would give her good academics and would teach basic Christian beliefs. On the application Jill wrote in her name as the girl’s mother, and then crossed out the father, wrote mother and listed Tracy, her wife’s name.
St. Vincent’s School chaplain Randall Foster said the school’s officials assumed that Tracy was a man. But after the women attended a parent’s night Aug. 17, schools officials called a meeting with Jill to say that the child could not enroll because their relationship is against the traditional beliefs of the Anglican Church.
"The canons of our church take a traditional stand on Christian marriage," Foster stated. "We didn’t want to send the tacit message that we endorse the relationship. We cannot do anything that would give legitimacy to same-sex relationships."
Tracy Harrison responded by saying, "What we do when we come home and shut the door should not affect our daughter getting an education, we want it to be fair."
"The only responsible thing was to say this is not a good fit," Foster said. "We were trying to protect Olivia, protect the other children from being exposed to the culture wars and stand up for our theological position."
The school was informed by Jill that the couple was divorcing and that both parents would participate in their daughter’s schooling, not mentioning it was a same-sex relationship before the pair showed up at parent’s night.
"I’ve never been explicit. It’s never been a problem. It’s never been an issue. If it comes up in conversation, I’ll answer, but I don’t feel it is my job to tell people about my personal life," Jill said. "Had I known, in hindsight, I would never have attempted to enroll her in a school where they did not believe in our beliefs and our lifestyle."
St. Vincent’s School states on a sign outside stating it’s Episcopal, though the clergy left that Church in 2007 and is now affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America. The church was among several that left the Episcopal Church over issues including the ordination of women and support for same-sex unions.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has contacted the family members to offer pastoral support and invited them to a Hurst, Texas, parish where they will be welcome, spokeswoman Katie Sherrod said. The diocese issued a news release to clarify its relationship with the school, noting that their schools have nondiscriminatory admission policies.
"I have been in touch with Jill Harrison to apologize for the ordeal she, Tracy and Olivia have endured and for the fact that the word Episcopal was associated with this ordeal in any way," spokeswoman Katie Sherrod said.
"I felt like we needed to reach out to them," Sherrod said. "That’s hard to tell a 4-year-old child that you can’t go to school there because you have two mommies. You don’t do this to a child. I just am at a loss to justify that decision or to even understand it."
The Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools, who accredited St. Vincent’s has asked for them to remove website references to its accreditation, and the school has agreed to do so.
Jill and Tracy Harrison, married in Canada in 2006, continue to use the same last name although they are separated. They have two children, Olivia and Spencer, who is 2. The Harrison’s have found a new, nonreligious school for their daughter.
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