A running back at a Catholic school in Indiana ran onto the football field waving a small rainbow flag before the first game of the season on Aug. 17.
In the stands, some students were decked in colorful clothing and face paint.
Elijah Mahan and the Roncalli High School student section were protesting to support Shelly Fitzgerald, a school guidance counselor who had been placed on paid administrative leave in early August because she was married to a woman.
Fitzgerald told Ellen Degeneres on the Ellen Show that she had been with her wife for 22 years — married for four — and the two had a 12-year-old daughter. Somebody had turned her marriage certificate in to school administration. The principal gave it to the archbishop.
The school gave her three options: dissolve the marriage, resign, or stay until the end of the year and then not renew her contract.
Fitzgerald, an alumna of Roncalli High School, didn’t want to leave a “job that I adore.”
On the Ellen Show, she said the school outed her to the public by releasing a press release that explained why she was placed on leave and banned from campus.
The school president and superintendent of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis called the claim that the school outed her “inaccurate” in a statement to the IndyStar.
Mahan joined a six-student group that included openly gay senior class president Dominic Conover, according to the Daily Journal. They began passing out rainbow-colored stickers, buttons a ribbons.
The group eventually started a GoFundMe page to help them afford “different varieties of clothing, accessories, signs, stickers and to advancing the mission in any way,” the page said.
Ellen announced that she would donate $25,000 to the campaign.
Mahan appeared on the show with a suit instead of a football uniform, and he displayed his support in a different way: There was a rainbow pocket square poking out of the jacket pocket.
“I thought it would be cool to show the whole community that I’m an ally and that I support Mrs. Fitzgerald,” he said.