Students and supporters have rallied behind a former teacher at a Catholic High School, who was fired when officials found out she was gay through her mother’s obituary.

Carla Hale, a practicing Methodist, had worked as a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson Catholic High School for 19 years.

Following the death of her mother in March Ms Hale took time off work, and during that time she wrote an obituary for her late mother in which she named her partner, Julie, as a survivor.

On returning to work she learned that a parent of one of her students had read the obituary and complained to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colombus, which governs her school. She was fired shortly after.

“If it were not for an obituary that appeared in the paper, none of this would be happening,” she told the Colombus Dispatch.

“[Julie] asked me if I really wanted to put her name in there — in the obituary — but as we sat there that day — my mom really loved Julie and Julie loved my mom and as I sat there with my brother, you know, it was like… his wife was mentioned, my niece’s husband was mentioned, so why not? Why not my person I love?”

A Change.org petition to reinstate Ms Hale, currently at 11,938 signatures, reads: “She was a teacher who cared for her students and treated each one with respect. The school, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her.

“It’s unfair that someone who cared so much about her students and her job should lose them on the basis of something she cannot even control. The school claims its mission is to teach its students about love, acceptance, and tolerance, and yet it did none of this in the way it treated Ms. Hale.”

Ian James of the pro-equal marriage FreedomOhio movement said: “It seems so inherently wrong and callous … to say, ‘In addition to losing your mother, you lose your career.’”

Teachers within the Columbus diocese can be terminated for “immorality” or “serious unethical conduct” according to their contracts.

In February Mike Moroski, Assistant Principal of Purcell Marian High School in Ohio, was sacked for refusing to recant statements he made on his blog in support of equal marriage for gay people.