January 10, 2016 at 8:08 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Married gay man protests firing from Md. Catholic church

Jeffrey Higgins, Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeffrey Higgins, second from right, joins a group of his supporters outside Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown, Md., on Jan. 10, 2016. The Archdiocese of Washington upheld Higgins’ termination as the parish’s part-time music minister after it became known that he was married to a man. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A gay music minister who was fired from a Maryland Catholic church because he is married to a man on Sunday joined a group of advocates who gathered outside the parish to protest his termination.

Jeffrey Higgins and his husband, Robert Higgins, stood outside Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown as parishioners arrived for Mass.

“We’re standing here to make sure that people in the parish know what happened, that I was fired from my job for being gay and married,” Jeffrey Higgins told the Washington Blade.

Jeffrey Higgins’ mother, Maria Higgins, stood near her son along Father Hurley Boulevard while holding a sign that read “We are the church and we would not fire Jeffrey.”

“I feel very, very sad about the situation,” said Maria Higgins, speaking through tears. “I feel very proud of Jeffrey and Robert and I’m very proud to stand here.”

At least one driver who drove past the protest honked their horn in support of Jeffrey Higgins.

Archdiocese: Music minister ‘violated’ church teachings

Jeffrey Higgins told the Blade last month that the parish in June 2014 hired him as a part-time music minister.

He said that Rev. Lee Fangmeyer, a pastor at the Montgomery County church, on Nov. 8, 2015, fired him after “it had been discovered that I was gay and married.” The Archdiocese of Washington upheld Jeffrey Higgins’ termination.

The Archdiocese of Washington last month acknowledged to the Blade that Jeffrey Higgins had “entered into a same-sex marriage, in public violation of Catholic teaching that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.” It further said that his “employment at Mother Seton Parish was terminated” after Fangmeyer “determined” that he “violated the agreed upon terms of his employment in the archdiocese.”

“The fact that the archdiocese makes such a claim is preposterous,” Robert Higgins told the Blade.

Larry Ranley of Alexandria, Va., who is a member of Dignity Washington, a local group for LGBT Catholics, agreed.

“It’s ridiculous in this day in age,” he told the Blade while holding a sign in front of the parish. “You can be a faithful Catholic and not believe everything.”

Jeffrey Higgins is among the number of LGBT employees who have been fired by Catholic institutions over the last year, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Obergefell case that gays and lesbians have the constitutional right to marry throughout the country.

Margie Winters, a former teacher at a Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia, lost her job in July 2015 because she married her partner. John Murphy in a complaint he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last October alleges the Diocese of Richmond terminated him from an assisted living facility that it operates after learning about his husband.

A Massachusetts judge last month ruled an all-girls Catholic high school in suburban Boston violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when it withdrew an employment offer it made to Matthew Barrett after learning he was married to a man.

The Vatican has adopted a more moderate tone towards marriage rights for same-sex couples and other issues since Pope Francis assumed the papacy in 2013. Critics nevertheless contend that church teaching on homosexuality remains unchanged.

Higgins, Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Maria Higgins stands outside Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown, Md., on Jan. 10, 2016. She was among the handful of people who gathered to protest her son’s termination from the parish in November because he married a man. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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

  • No actually you can’t be Catholic and reject the teachings of the church. You can reject them all you like, but we call them protestants. Join their church.

    • But you CAN contradict the church in most any other area of doctrine and remain employed and a member.

      BTW,…good mother.

        • Ah yes, keep it on the downlow. Behind the altar, w/ the altarboys.


          • Why is your mind in the gutter?

            The Catholic church is about much more than human sexuality. No one who is employed by the church or church related missions, i.e. education, health care, social services etc., can openly oppose Catholic doctrine. If they don’t agree, they are free to leave the church as a comment stated above. The church doesn’t require you to lie to keep your job, but when Catholics oppose or mock doctrine secretly, you end up with the scandalous scenario that you are implying, not the other way around. So when employees claim to be Catholic but act contrary to Catholic teaching in their lives, why do they expect to stay on the payroll?

            Can you expect any employer to keep employees who are working in opposition to the company mission? Are employers within their rights to require a conflict of interest agreement before hiring? Why can’t the church require employees to remain faithful to the church mission?

            I agree that it creates difficulty for people who have quit perfectly good jobs to take a job in a church function only to be fired when their contradictory status is revealed and the church needs to do much better at creating a mission statement agreement that can be signed prior to consideration for employment in order to avoid harming otherwise qualified applicants who are opposed to church doctrine and therefore shouldn’t be considered for employment. The seminary has had its problems weeding out predatory personalities who are only interested in access to potential victims. Obviously, some should never had been ordained but hid their proclivities from those in charge until they reached positions of power and opened the floodgates. This is the result of deception, so not good.

  • So, the GerBiLs will tell US what the Constitution says, I guess.

  • “The Vatican has adopted a more moderate tone towards marriage rights for same-sex couples and other issues since Pope Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.”

    That is a completely fabricated lie. And you call yourself a journalistic website?

  • Mother Seton employs a women who publicly carries on a relationship with another parishioner who is not her husband. That is not within the churches teachings, so why is she still employed there? If they’re going to “clean house” with employees based on their personal life outside the parish, then it needs to apply to everyone. This is favoritism and another reason why I have left this church. On a side note, the pastor does know about this extramarital affair and has chosen to sweep it under the rug. I support you fully Mr. Higgins and have had the pleasure of enjoying listening to God’s word through your lovely voice.

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