October 14, 2015 at 8:02 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay Va. man files EEOC complaint against Catholic diocese
John Murphy, gay news, EEOC, Washington Blade, Catholic

John Murphy claims in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the Catholic Diocese of Richmond fired him from his job at an assistant living facility because he is gay and married to a man. (Photo courtesy of Equality Virginia)

A Virginia man claims he was fired from a Catholic assisted living facility earlier this year because he is gay and married to his partner.

John Murphy in a complaint his lawyer, H. Aubrey Ford, III, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Sept. 24 said he began working as the executive director of St. Francis Home, which the Catholic Diocese of Richmond owns and operates, on March 23 of this year.

Murphy in a press release that Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, released on Tuesday said the president of the St. Francis Home’s board of directors that hired him “indicated” his sexual orientation and marriage were “not a problem.”

Murphy says he filled out the necessary paperwork to secure employee benefits after he started working in the position. The home then forwarded it to the diocese for processing.

The complaint alleges Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo ordered the board to fire Murphy once he learned he was gay and was married to a man.

The board “unanimously refused” to terminate Murphy, and DiLorenzo appointed lay representatives to go to the home and fire him on April 1 “without severance pay, reasonable health care coverage or other termination benefits.”

Murphy says “numerous” board members resigned in protest.

The Equality Virginia press release indicates that Murphy in his complaint references a July ruling from the EEOC that said discrimination based upon sexual orientation amounts to sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint also notes the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Obergefell case that said same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry throughout the country.

“I expect to be judged by my job performance, but I am appalled and deeply hurt that the bishop of the church I grew up in would suddenly fire me solely because of the gender of the person I share my life with — a person to whom I am lawfully married, according to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Murphy.

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that Diana Sims Snider, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, declined to comment on Murphy’s specific allegations. She nevertheless described them as a First Amendment issue.

“We expect that a Catholic organization or any religious organization should be able to follow the teachings of our faith,” Snider told the AP, referring to marriage. “We are saying: This is what we do as Catholics, this is what we expect of our employees because this is what we believe to be true.”

Murphy is not the first LGBT person who claims a Catholic institution fired them because of their marital status.

Margie Winters, a former teacher at a Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia, lost her job in July after she married her long-time partner. Lonnie Billard, a gay substitute teacher, in January said he lost his job as a substitute teacher at a Roman Catholic high school in Charlotte, N.C., after he announced on Facebook that he planned to marry his partner.

“Mr. Murphy’s firing is part of a tragic and concerning pattern of highly effective employees being dismissed from Catholic institutions simply because of who they are and whom they love,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an LGBT Catholic organization, in the Equality Virginia press release. “We have seen dozens of competent, valued people fired after exercising their civil right to marry a same-sex partner, even if they have been honest up front about their status, and assured there was no problem”

“This kind of action, usually at the direction of a church official, violates core Catholic teachings about the dignity of work and the right of employees to not experience discrimination,” added Duddy-Burke. “It also is not supported by most Catholics.”

Ford filed the complaint with the EEOC on the same day that Pope Francis traveled to New York from D.C. during his trip to the U.S.

Francis on Sept. 23 had a private meeting with Yayo Grassi, a gay man he taught in his native Argentina in the 1960s, and his partner at the Papal Nunciature in Northwest Washington. The Vatican has distanced itself from claims that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs, met with Francis the following day before he left the nation’s capital.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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