Freeheld, which is currently filming in the New York area, tells the story of how a lesbian couple fought discrimination more than 10 years ago to extend domestic partner benefits. With same-sex marriage spreading state by state this year, the movie — which stars Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, who is also a producer on the film — might feel like it took place a long time ago.
But Freeheld's director Peter Sollett, producers, cast, and production staff were recently reminded that while some things have changed for LGBT people, others have not.
In Freeheld — based on Cynthia Wade's Oscar-winning documentary short from 2007 — Moore plays a New Jersey detective dying of lung cancer who seeks to leave her pension to her partner, played by Page. In one scene, the couple applies for a civil union, and the production needed a building that could pass for a town hall.
Initially, the location scout was told that Salesian High School, a private, all-boys Catholic school in New Rochelle, N.Y., was available for the afternoon the scene was to be filmed. But then higher-up school administrators said no. Michael Shamberg, Freeheld's producer, told BuzzFeed News that he then appealed to Salesian's principal, John Flaherty, who told Shamberg to send an email that he could forward to Father John Serio, the school's president. After doing that, Shamberg never heard back from Serio, and Freeheld shot the scene somewhere else.
"I respect their right to say no," Shamberg said. "But it's sad."
When BuzzFeed News contacted Flaherty by email about the school's reasoning in not wanting a movie with LGBT content to film there, he wrote: "All are welcomed at Salesian High School. Our School chooses to embrace the social issues such as hunger, homelessness, poverty, and helping the less fortunate."
When asked in a follow-up email for more specifics, Flaherty responded, "I will let my initial statement stand for itself."
Disclosure: Michael Shamberg is a consultant to BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, a sister company of BuzzFeed News.
Page tweeted the below in response to the Salesian High School administration's decision not to allow Freeheld to film there: