Virginia man John Murphy claims that the bishop of a local Catholic diocese ordered his removal from a top position at a diocese-owned assisted living home after finding out that Murphy was a gay man, married to his partner of 30 years.
Murphy filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Catholic Diocese of Richmond last month. He was executive director for the St. Francis Home in Richmond for about two weeks when deputies of Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo told him he was being fired because his marriage violated the views of the Catholic Church.
He was then terminated without severance pay. Murphy and his husband, who is retired, are now primarily relying on Social Services benefits to get by. Murphy is a life-long Catholic and says that the incident has shaken his faith in the church.
“I thought I found a safe place where I could do good and I won’t be judged and I won’t be ostracized,” Murphy said, “People being discriminated against because of who they love, when it has nothing to do with their performance, is outrageous.”
Diana Sims Snider, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, refused to comment specifically on Murphy’s charges, but claims that the diocese sees this 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 commented, “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.”
The St. Francis Home’s day-to-day operations are not run by the church, nor does the diocese fund yearly operating expenses. Instead, the church supports the St. Francis Home in other ways, such as allowing it to solicit funds from parishioners.
When he was hired, Murphy was told that his relationship would not be a problem by president of the home’s Board of Directors, the group responsible for hiring employees. Both Murphy and his attorney believe that bishop DiLorenzo found out about the marriage after paperwork had been forwarded on for processing.
At least one board member has resigned due to the bishop’s actions. Sam Dilbert Sr. claims that an action like that has no place in today’s time. He said that he did not know of Murphy’s sexuality when he was hired, but this is did not change his opinions of Murphy, both personal and professional.
Murphy’s case is just one of several where an openly gay employee has been terminated from a Catholic organization in the United States. Since 2010 dozens of people have reported losing their jobs for their own same-sex relationships or their support of gay rights and gay marriage.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against people due to sex, race, religion, and sexual orientation (recently deemed in July of this year). Though there is religious exemption, it only goes as far as to allow organizations from refusing to hire people who aren’t part of their religion.
If the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finds that Murphy was discriminated against, it will try to reach a settlement between the two sides. If no discrimination is found, or a settlement cannot be reached, the case will likely go to federal court where the outcome is unclear.