Response was swift to WW's story late Tuesday that St. Mary's Academy in downtown Portland had fired—then tried to silence—a new employee after learning she is gay.

Social media is awash in messages of support for Lauren Brown, a 27-year-old graduate of Lewis & Clark College who hoped to be a college counselor at the elite, private all-girls Catholic prep school.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening in anticipation of WW's story, St. Mary's officials defended their actions, saying the school withdrew its contract offer to Brown when she told officials she planned to marry her girlfriend. (Brown says she's not engaged, and only asked St. Mary's what would happen if she got married.)

"This is not an easy situation," school president Christina Friedhoff wrote. "As with all matters of faith, we strive to live out the values of the Gospel while struggling with the complexities of today's world. We serve a diverse community of young women of all faiths and will continue to be a welcoming place for your daughters."

On Twitter, Brown's supporters are using the hashtag #fightforsma.

 



 





Meanwhile, St. Mary's Academy has closed its social media accounts.

At the school, students are gathering in rainbow attire, hoping to pressure the school to rethink its move. "I adore this school," Maya Banitt, an 18-year-old graduate tells WW. "It's not too late for them to change their mind."

UPDATE, 2:35 pm: Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has released a statement asking St. Mary's to re-hire Lauren Brown.

"Portland is a city that embraces rights and opportunities for everyone," Hales said. "Those aren't just nice words. They are also the law. We believe St. Mary's Academy, and every other public, private and nonprofit organization in the city, should follow the letter and the spirit of the law, and our shared values."

Hales met with Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample for dinner Monday. Mayoral spokesman Dana Haynes says Hales was unaware Monday of the firing, and did not discuss the topic with Sample.

News intern Coby Hutzler contributed reporting.