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.