Murphy eight days earlier began working as the executive director of the assisted living facility for low-income people that the Diocese of Richmond owns and operates. The two diocesan officials — Chief Financial Officer Michael McGee and Human Resources Officer Dorothy Mahanes — who arrived at his office told him that his marriage to his husband, Jerry Carter, was “antithetical to church teaching.”
“That renders you unfit for this position,” said McGee, according to Murphy. “Today’s your last day.”
Murphy told the Washington Blade on Saturday during an interview at his Richmond home with Carter that McGee and Mahanes did not provide him with a termination letter or a severance package. He said they allowed him to remain on their health care plan through the end of the month.
“I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach,” Murphy told the Blade as Carter listened. “And that was coming from a diocese that was operating a home for the indigent.”
‘I was honest’ about spouse
Murphy spoke with the Blade slightly more than five months after his lawyer, H. Aubrey Ford, III, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on his behalf.
The complaint references last July’s EEOC ruling that said discrimination based upon sexual orientation amounts to sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also notes the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergefell case extended marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the country.
Murphy told the Blade that he filled out paperwork after he began working at the home on March 23, 2015. He said that he identified Carter as his spouse in order to obtain dental benefits for him as part of his compensation package.
“It asks on there the relationship to the ensured or to the policy holder,” said Murphy. “Of course I was honest and I said my spouse, and it said sex. And I put male.”
Murphy said Tina Neal, president of the St. Francis Home’s board of directors, told him that the fact he is a married gay man was not a problem because “this is 2015.”
The EEOC complaint alleges that Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo ordered the board to fire Murphy once he learned about his marital status. The diocese sent McGee and Mahanes to do so because the board refused.
“Essentially they said, ‘this is not right,’” Murphy told the Blade, referring to the board.
Murphy said Neal met with DiLorenzo the day after his termination to “try to convince him that this is a bad decision and to persuade him to bring you back.”
He told the Blade that at least two board members have resigned since the diocese fired him. Murphy said the consultant hired to help fill the position at the home said she was “appalled at discrimination like this.”
Carter described the situation to the Blade as “a nightmare.”
He said that Murphy was a devout Catholic who “trusted the church” when they met in New York more than three decades ago.
“I’m not sure where to go or religiously what the next step would be for me,” said Murphy. “Ironically this happens at the time where we’re led to believe that Francis is creating a new environment, ‘Who am I to judge?’”
Carter added he and Murphy have made “draconian adjustments” to compensate for the income they have lost.
“The income that he was getting from this position was really important to us,” said Carter.
Murphy said he has looked for other jobs in Richmond’s non-profit sector since the diocese fired him. He described the last few months to the Blade as a “roller coaster.”
Diana Sims Snider, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Richmond, on Monday declined to specifically comment on Murphy’s case. She referred the Blade to a statement the Diocese of Richmond issued after Ford filed the complaint with the EEOC.
“The St. Francis Home, a religious-based independent non-profit care facility located in
Richmond, Va., was founded by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond to serve the low-income elderly,” reads the statement. “As a Catholic organization, we expect the employees of the diocese and its ministries, to uphold and embody the consistent values and truths of the Catholic faith, including those preserving the sanctity of marriage.”
Murphy said the diocese has implemented a policy since his termination that says prospective employees “must be a Catholic in good standing.” He pointed out to the Blade that the home’s website now contains several references to the “ministerial role” that its employees “play in the operation of St. Francis Home.”
“That word never came up in any of my interviews,” said Murphy.
Pope’s message ‘hasn’t trickled down’ to U.S. church
Murphy is among the growing number of LGBT people who claim they have been fired from a Catholic institution because of their marital status.
Jeffrey Higgins claims Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown, Md., fired him as its music minister last November after a pastor found out he was married to a man.
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 2015 said he was fired at a Catholic high school in North Carolina after announcing that he planned to marry his partner.
A Massachusetts judge in December ruled an all-girls Catholic high school outside of Boston discriminated against a gay married man when it refused to hire him. The Virginia Senate last week approved a bill that would allow organizations and individuals to refuse to officiate a same-sex marriage or provide services for such an event if it violates their religious beliefs.
Murphy on Saturday spoke about Pope Francis and his more moderate tone towards homosexuality and other LGBT-specific issues.
He said the pontiff’s message “hasn’t trickled down and it isn’t consistently applied from diocese to diocese.” Murphy also described the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as “one of the more intensely conservative” groups of churches and bishops in the world.
“That of course dictates a lot of what people hear and what happens in the churches,” he told the Blade.