NEW YORK - The Brooklyn Diocese fired a Catholic music school teacher in Queens after he married a man, saying he violated a contractual stipulation to the Catholic Church.
Matthew LaBanca lost his job as a teacher at St. Joseph's Catholic Academy in Astoria and his position as the music director at Corpus Christi Church. He said the diocese fired him on Oct. 13 after diocese officials learned from a community member that he married a man back in August.
"It made me feel at a loss, made me feel worried for losing my jobs, losing my income, losing my health insurance," LaBanca said. "Made me feel sad for losing the daily community life that I had grown to love and appreciate so much."
LaBanca said that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the soon-to-retire leader of the Brooklyn Diocese, was responsible for his termination.
"His contract has been terminated based on the expectations that all Catholic school and academy personnel, and ministers of the church, comply with church teachings, as they share in the responsibility of ministering the faith to students," diocese spokesperson Adriana Rodriguez said in a statement. "In his case, it has been determined that he can no longer fulfill his obligations as a minister of the faith at either the school or the parish."
LaBanca said he turned down a severance package from the diocese because it would have required him to sign documents that prohibited him from speaking about the termination.
"There are other church teachings that are not targeted this way — about employees who may not be going to church on Sunday or anybody who is not Catholic, who is employed or people who are on birth control or who are divorced but remarried," LaBanca said. "It's a capricious, discriminatory practice against the LGBTQ community, and it happened to me."
City and state anti-discrimination laws forbid terminations based on sexual orientation, but religious institutions are protected to make decisions based on religious beliefs.
"Despite changes to New York state law in 2011 legalizing same-sex marriage, church law is clear," the diocese spokesperson said. "We wish Mr. Labanca only the best in his future endeavors."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn oversees parishes and parochial schools in Brooklyn and Queens.
With The Associated Press.
St. Joseph Academy in Astoria, Queens. (Via Google Street View)