Nonetheless, a federal judge in Orlando threw the case out, ruling that Hamilton had failed to show that her treatment was different than any other teachers at the school.
In reversing that decision, appeals court Judge Edward Carnes said there was enough circumstantial evidence to raise a reasonable inference of intentional discrimination by the school.
“Hamilton presented evidence that, in making the decision to fire her, Southland was more concerned about her pregnancy and her request to take maternity leave than about her admission that she had premarital sex,” Judge Carnes wrote. “She testified at deposition that, after she told the Ennises about her pregnancy but before she told them she had conceived before getting married, John Ennis ‘put his head back and he said, we feared something like this would happen.’ “
Hamilton was reportedly told that she would have to take the entire year off because it was difficult for school administrators to replace a teacher on maternity leave after the school year started.
According to Hamilton’s deposition, she asked John Ennis: “What is the issue here? Is it because of the coverage? Or is it because of the premarital conception?” Hamilton said that Ennis replied that it was “both reasons.”
Mr. Ennis said during his own deposition that Hamilton was fired not just because of her premarital sex, but also because she never expressed sorrow for her actions.
“If … she would have said to us I’m sorry that I’ve sinned against the Lord and this school, we would not be here,” Ennis said. “We could have gone in another total direction. But I never heard her say she was sorry.”
Hamilton’s deposition tells a different story, according to Carnes. She gave this account of what happened after she spoke to the Ennises: “I became afraid that I had done something horrible. And I went to God in prayer, and my husband and I both together, and asked for forgiveness. And I expressed that to Mr. Ennis. Hopefully, you know, letting him know that I, you know, was remorseful for what had – you know, if I’ve done something so horrible against God. And that God had forgiven me, and I just wanted him to, if, you know, it was such a horrible thing. But it didn’t make a difference.”