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N.Y. Catholic diocese removes married gay man from parish duties

Nicholas Coppola attends Long Island church

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Nicholas Coppola, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade
Nicholas Coppola, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Oceanside, N.Y., resident (left) Nicholas Coppola claims the local Catholic diocese removed him from parish activities after he married his husband last October. (Photo courtesy of GLAAD.)

A New York Catholic diocese in January removed a gay man from public duties at his Long Island parish after he married his same-sex partner.

Nicholas Coppola has attended Mass at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Oceanside, N.Y., since he moved from New York City four years ago. He has worked as an altar server, lector, religious education teacher and visitation minister for homebound parishioners. Coppola was also a member of a ministry that comforted parishioners as they prepared to hold funerals for their loved ones.

Coppola and his partner of nearly a decade married in October — two days before Superstorm Sandy inundated Oceanside and other communities along Long Island’s South Shore.

Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which encompasses Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island, on Dec. 5 received an anonymous letter that detailed Coppola’s work within the parish, but highlighted his sexual orientation.

“The problem is that he is a homosexual,” the letter reads. “He was recently married to another man. He does not hide this or keep it silent.”

Bishop Bob Brennan on Jan. 9 faxed a copy of the aforementioned letter to Father Nicholas Lombardi of St. Anthony’s. He stressed that “while not on a witch hunt, I know it would be of concern to you if a catechist were, in fact, ‘married’ as described.

Coppola told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that Lombardi approached him after the first Mass he attended when he returned home from his delayed honeymoon over Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend.

“As I walked out of church, the pastor wanted to see me,” Coppola said. “That’s when he hit me with that. I knew he had a heavy heart doing it.”

Coppola said he wrote to Murphy, but he did not respond. He subsequently met with Brennan twice and said he and the bishop had a “fruitful discussion” during their first meeting. Coppola said Brennan told him during their second meeting that he could not “do anything.”

“He said my hands are tied,” Coppola said. “You made a public statement against church teaching.”

Coppola spoke with the Blade less than a week after New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that gay Catholics are “entitled to friendship,” while maintaining marriage should remain between a man and a woman. Dolan also conceded the church has to “do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.”

Other gay and lesbian Catholics have been excluded from parish activities or even fired from their jobs at parochial schools over the last year.

Father Marcel Guarnizo last February refused to serve communion to Barbara Johnson during her mother’s funeral at a St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md. The priest stepped down after the Archdiocese of Washington placed him on administrative leave.

Administrators at a Normandy, Mo., parochial school last February fired music teacher Al Fischer after a representative of the Archdiocese of St. Louis learned he planned to marry his partner of nearly 20 years in New York City. Steav Bates-Congdon claims he lost his job as music director of a Charlotte, N.C., parish in Jan. 2012 after he and his husband tied the know in the Big Apple a few months earlier.

Sean Dolan of the Diocese of Rockville Centre confirmed to the Blade that Lombardi removed Coppola from his positions within the parish because he “made a decision to marry civilly” and it was as “a public statement” that is “inconsistent with Catholic teaching.”

Gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry in New York since 2011, but Dolan stressed diocesan priests would also remove a heterosexual person from their public parish duties if they left their marriage and tied the knot with someone else without getting an annulment.

“We’re not singling anybody out,” he said.

Dolan said Coppola is welcome to attend Mass in the parish.

Coppola remains hopeful that he will be able to one day return to the altar.

“I’m welcomed by parishioners,” he said. “I’ welcomed by most clergy, being priests. It’s what’s coming down from the top. I’m hoping that this would open up the dialogue even further.”

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The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’

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J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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