Employees of Catholic Institutions Who Have Been Fired, Forced to Resign, Had Offers Rescinded, or Had Their Jobs Threatened Because of LGBT Issues
(Includes Dioceses with New Restrictive Contract Clauses, Positive Responses, Updates on Legal Cases, and Resources)
(updated September 28, 2017)
Compiled by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
Outline of Page
Below is a list, organized by year, of workers in Catholic institutions who have been fired, forced to resign, had offers rescinded, or had their jobs threatened because of LGBT issues.
If you click on the names of the individuals in the list, you will be brought to blog posts and news stories about their particular cases. One note of caution: the blog posts will be ordered in reverse chronological order, so to see the beginning of the stories, scroll down to the bottom and read up. Also, you may find that you will see a copy of this page listed. That is because the blog search for each name also brings up this page because the name is mentioned here, too.
The list only includes those cases which have become public in the media. In many other instances, fired church works, for a variety of reasons, have chosen not to make their cases public.
In addition to the individuals’ cases listed below, the following U.S. dioceses have instituted new teacher contracts for Catholic schools which require employees to promise they will not professionally or personally support same-sex relationships:
In July 2016, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia released pastoral guidelines banning people in same-gender relationships from ecclesial or liturgical ministries. The guidelines also said such relationships “produce moral confusion” in and are “undermining the faith of” parish communities. These guidelines were Chaput’s response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and were called a “losing strategy” by New Ways Ministry.
When marriage equality became legal at the beginning of 2015, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida, warned church employees that they should be careful not to show any public dissent from church teachings. He sent the warning along with the Florida Catholic Conference’s statement opposing marriage equality.
To date, only two members of the U.S. hierarchy, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, has spoken out against firing of legally married gay or lesbian people who work for Catholic institutions. O’Malley said that this trend is a situation that “needs to be rectified.”
In April 2017, Bishop John Stowe of Diocese of Lexington offered the most comprehensive positive statement against the firing of church workers in LGBT-related disputes. He told attendees at New Ways Ministry’s 8th National Symposium:
“We must preserve our tradition and our integrity as a church. . .We risk contradicting ourselves if we want our employees to live by the church’s teaching and if we ourselves as an institution don’t live by our teaching, which has always opposed discrimination of any sort.”
In October 2016, the Jesuit weekly America Magazine published an editorial titled “Unjust Discrimination” that challenged the firing of LGBT church workers. The editors said holding LGBT employees “to different standards or dismissing them abruptly” can be causes of scandal, and proposed German bishops’ employment policies as a model to be adopted. Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large for America, reiterated these points in a major address for New Ways Ministry on mutual respect in the church.
In May 2016, Mercy High School in San Francisco retained English teacher Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer after he came out as transgender. This decision was affirmed by the Sisters of Mercy, who administer the high school, and agreed to by local ordinary, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Those involved in the decision later shared their reflections about this positive step.
In April 2016, officials at the University of San Francisco including President Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, SJ, welcomed the marriage of head women’s basketball coach Jennifer Azzi to assistant coach Blair Hardiek, saying the University would afford them “every benefit and legal protection which is due.”
In May 2015, the bishops of Germany voted in favor of new employment policies which would protect church workers in same-gender relationships from being fired from their jobs because of their legal relationship status. The same protections apply to those who have re-married after divorce. A lesbian woman was able to resume directing a church-affiliated kindergarten as a result of this decision.
The first meeting of a network of Catholic workers who have been fired or concerned about firings was held in Chicago at the end of April 2015. The group includes those whose employment disputes revolve around a number of questions of morality, including LGBT issues.
In July 2015, Fordham University responded to conservative criticisms by congratulating theology department chair J. Patrick Hornbeck on his same-gender marriage in the Episcopal Church. The statement wished the couple “a rich life filled with many blessings” and affirmed their constitutional right to marriage in the U.S.
In September 2015, St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon reversed its decision to dismiss a counselorafter learning she is a lesbian woman and then adopted a non-discrimination policy protective of LGBT employees, including those who are legally married.
In April 2012, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn allowed a gay Catholic man to remain on the parish councilof an Austrian church. This decision reversed the priest’s decision, who had expelled Florian Stangl because he had a registered domestic partnership. Stangl had bee overwhelmingly elected to the council by his fellow parishioners. Schönborn’s decision came after he met with the man and his partner over lunch.
Among the more than seventy church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related disputes since 2007, at least a dozen have pursued legal action against the Catholic institution(s) which ended their employment. Below are settled and pending legal cases, both in the U.S. and internationally, with links provided for more information.
Supportive Legal Decisions
“Silvia” won a discrimination case in Italy against the Catholic school which had fired her based on rumors about her sexual orientation. L’Istituto Sacro Cuore in Trent had to pay financial damages to the teacher, a labor union, and a civil rights association.
Matthew Barrett won a lawsuit against Fontbonne Academy in Massachusetts in 2015. A state judge ruled Barrett had been discriminated against after his employment contract to be the school’s food services director was withdrawn when Barrett listed his husband as an emergency contact. The judge rejected claims that Barrett’s employment was covered under the ministerial exemption afforded to religious employers, which would have exempted Fontbonne Academy from the state’s nondiscrimination protections. Instead of appealing the decision, the school settled with Barrett.
Fired teacher Christa Dias won a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after a jury found she had been discriminated against when a Catholic school fired her for becoming pregnant by artificial insemination. She was awarded $171,000 damages in 2013.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that fired educator Flint Dollar had “reasonable cause” to sue Mount de Sales Academy in Georgia, which fired him for marrying a man, despite the fact that the school had nondiscrimination policies on sexual orientation and marital status. Dollar later settled out of court with the school.
Shaela Evenson filed a federal lawsuit against the Diocese of Helena and Butte Central Catholic High School claiming pregnancy and sex discrimination, as well as breach of contract. Evenson, who is a lesbian woman, was fired for becoming pregnant outside marriage. She reached a private settlement ahead of a scheduled trial in March 2016.
Colleen Simon, fired as a parish’s social ministries coordinator for being married to a woman, settled with the Diocese of Kansas City in 2015 for an undisclosed amount after a judge ruled Simon’s lawsuit could have proceeded to a jury trial.
Carla Hale reached a private settlement with the Diocese of Columbus after she was fired as a Catholic high school’s physical education teacher when her partner’s name was listed in an obituary for Hale’s mother.
A judge allowed Marla Krolikowski’s lawsuit against St. Francis Preparatory High School in Queens, New York, to go forward after the school attempted to have the case dismissed. The judge disputed the school’s claim that Krolikowski was fired for insubordination after 32 years teaching, a firing that happened shortly after she announced her gender transition. She later reached a private settlement with the school.
Fired transgender teacher Jan Buterman has filed complaints against the publicly-funded Catholic school system in Alberta, Canada which fired Buterman for transitioning. A judge ruled that the Alberta Human Rights Commission should hear the discrimination case. Eventually, another judge ruled Buterman’s case would not proceed.
John Murphy filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after he was fired as the executive director of a Richmond, Virginia-area assisted living facility.
Sandra Pavez, a public school religion teacher fired for being a partnered lesbian, will have her discrimination case against Chile’s government heard by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, potentially ending a decade of legal battles and reforming Chilean employment law.
Sandor Demkovich filed discrimination complaints against the Archdiocese of Chicago with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights after being fired as parish music director for marrying his husband.
Colin Collette had filed discrimination complaints against the Archdiocese of Chicago with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Cook County Commission on Human Rights after being fired as parish music director when he became engaged to his husband. After gaining permission from the EEOC to do so, Collette filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese and Holy Family Catholic Church in March 2015. Two years later, Collette’s lawsuit was dismissed by a judge on the grounds that the defendants had religious exemptions.
Theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler of Creighton University in Nebraska published an essay in the National Catholic Reporter about why Catholics should support LGBT non-discrimination protections, and specifically why U.S. bishops are wrong to oppose such laws.
A 2012 National Catholic Reporter commentary on the beginning of the firing trend: “Church must change its ideas toward gay and lesbian employees.
For those interested in instituting employment non-discrimination policies in Catholic institutions, click here for some suggestions, or send email to director@NewWaysMinistry.org.
For a prayer for LGBT workers in Catholic institutions, click here.
* Indicates that this case happened outside the United States.
*Sandra Pavez – was fired from teaching religion in Chile’s public schools after her same-gender relationship became known to church officials.
*Jan Buterman –was fired from teaching in an Alberta, Canada, Catholic school district after he transitioned from female to male. Buterman filed legal challenges for nine years, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Jodi O’Brien –a position as a dean at Marquette University, Milwaukee, was rescinded when it was found that this lesbian sociology professor had written academic journal articles that were critical of traditional marriage.
Laine Tadlock –was fired from her position as the director of education at Benedictine University, Illinois, after her Iowa wedding to her lesbian partner was announced in a newspaper. Previous to this, her employer was aware of both Tadlock’s orientation and her marriage, and no repercussions occurred.
Sandra Worsham – was fired by a relatively new priest as the parish’s organist after marrying her wife, and was also told she and her wife should not receive Communion.
Erin Macke –was fired from a Chicago Catholic high school when it was revealed she was a lesbian and had counseled a lesbian student. Laine Tadlock –was fired from an Illinois Catholic university for entering into a civil union with her partner.
Steav Bates-Congdon –was fired from his parish music position in North Carolina because he married Bill Bates-Congdon.
Al Fischer –was fired from his parish and school music positions in Missouri because he married Charlie Robin.
“John Doe” –obtained an exemption from Minnesota campaign finance board public disclosure requirements because a court determined his donation to a state marriage equality campaign could jeopardize his employment at a Catholic institution.
Trish Cameron –was fired from a teaching position at a Catholic grade school in Minnesota because she expressed support for marriage equality during a teacher evaluation.
*Nigel Studdart –was fired from a teaching position at a Catholic high school in New Zealand after criticizing the principal’s comments against gay and lesbian parents.
Greg Bourke — was expelled as Scoutmaster of a Louisville-area Boy Scouts troop based at a Catholic church because he is gay; he was rejected again by church officials despite the Scouts now accepting gay leaders. Bourke and his husband, Michael DeLeon, were plaintiffs in a challenge to Kentucky’s marriage equality ban, later tied to the Obergefell case.
Don Mario Bonfanti — was removed from active priestly ministry after coming out as gay on social media.
Marla Krolikowski –was fired from a New York Catholic high school when she transitioned to the female gender; New York court allowed her suit against the school to go forward.
Mike Moroski–was fired from his position as assistant principal at a Cincinnati high school because he posted statements in support of marriage equality on his Facebook page.
Nicholas Coppola –was dismissed from volunteer ministries at a Long Island parish for marrying David Crespo.
Carla Hale –was fired from an Ohio Catholic high school because her lesbian partner was listed in her mother’s obituary.
Christa Dias –was fired from a school job for becoming pregnant by artificial insemination; subsequently she won a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati because a court ruled that as a computer teacher, she was not a “ministerial employee.”
Nick Johns –was fired from an Atlanta-area parish music job because his employers learned he was gay and supported marriage equality.
Tim Nelson –was denied a school administration job after he had been in talks with a Wisconsin Catholic school system because the employer thought he was gay due to the fact that he was living with another man.
William Hudson –resigned, rather than be fired, from a Twin Cities school’s presidency because he is involved in a committed relationship with a man.
Michael McMahon –was fired from his job as a church music minister in Virginia after he married same-gender partner. Shortly after this action, he left his job as President of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, though neither he nor his employer have disclosed why.
Ken Bencomo –was fired from a California school for marrying Christopher Persky.
Kristen Ostendorf –fired from the same Twin Cities school as Hudson (above) because she acknowledged she was in a committed relationship with a woman.
Tippi McCullough –was fired from an Arkansas Catholic high school for marrying Barbara Mariani.
Michael Griffin –was fired from a Philadelphia-area Catholic high school for informing the administration of his intent to marry a man.
Mark Zmuda –was fired from his position as vice president of a Seattle-area Catholic high school for marrying a man, Dana Jergens.
Shaela Evenson–was fired from a Butte, Montana, Catholic grade school because of becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Evenson, a lesbian in a committed relationship, and her employer agree that it was her pregnancy, and not sexual orientation or her relationship, which was the reason for being fired. Yet, as a lesbian, neither church nor state will allow her to marry.
Brian Panetta –was fired from an Ohio Catholic high school for his intention to marry his partner, Nathan David, though he had agreed to resign before the wedding, at the end of the school year.
Orlando Jimenez –agreed to resign from a full-time position as a New Mexico parish organist for marrying a man, he but was denied the opportunity take offers to be a freelance musician for weddings and funerals.
Matthew Barrett –had an employment offer rescinded for a position as food service manager at a Massachusetts Catholic high school when he listed his husband as an emergency contact.
Molly Shumate –refused to sign a new Archdiocese of Cincinnati teacher contract because it required employees not to publicly support same-gender relationships, and she felt that would be a sign of disrespect towards her gay son.
*Terence Weldon –in London, England, this gay Catholic man was turned down from a volunteer job with a Catholic relief organization because he maintains a blog support Catholic LGBT people.
Colleen Simon –was fired from her job as social ministries coordinator at a Catholic parish in Kansas City, Missouri, when it inadvertently became public through a newspaper article that she was married to a woman.
Kathleen Purcell –was let go from her teaching job at an Oakland, California, Catholic high school when she signed the new teachers’ contract, but crossed out the sections which demanded that employees personal and professional lives conform to Catholic teaching.
Eva Marlatt–did not sign her contract as director of academic support at an Oakland, California, Catholic high school because the new contract clauses represented “an unworkable dilemma forced upon us: the moral dilemma between our loyalty to a wonderful (and wonderfully diverse) school community and the demands of our personal sense of integrity and our dedication to social justice and civil rights.”
Anonymous–a third teacher, unnamed in a news report, did not renew an employment contract because of new restrictive clauses at the same Oakland, California, Catholic high school that employed Kathleen Purcell and Eva Marlatt (above).
Richard Miller–was told that the contract for his job as a teacher at a Cincinnati Catholic school for the deaf would not be renewed because he lives with another man, and their six children, in a committed relationship. Miller notes that his employer knew of the relationship when he was hired, and that the non-renewal was a result of the new, restrictive archdiocesan contract.
Richard Hague –refused to sign a new Archdiocese of Cincinnati teacher contract because it required employees not to publicly support same-gender relationships. He has taught for 45 years, and said he does not believe “that Jesus would require me to condemn my friends.”
Flint Dollar –was fired from his job as band director at a Catholic school in Macon, Georgia, after he announced plans to marry his male partner of six years.
*“Silvia” (the only name she made public)–was fired from her teaching position at a Catholic school in Trent, Italy, after the headmistress heard a rumor that Silvia was a lesbian. The teacher refused to either confirm or deny it.
Colin Collette–was fired from his job as music minister at a Catholic parish in Inverness, Illinois (near Chicago), after it became known that he became engaged to be married to his longtime male partner.
*Luis Alberto González–was fired by the bishop from his job as a religion teacher in a public school in the Canary Islands, Spain, when he announced that he had legally married another man.
Benjamin Brenkert–after 10 years as a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), preparing for ordination, he left the community, in part because of the many firings of LGBT people by Catholic institutions. In particular the firing of Colleen Simon (see above) from a Jesuit parish had a major impact on his decision.
Barbara Webb--a lesbian woman in a committed relationship, Webb was fired from her job as a chemistry teacher at a Catholic high school in Bloomfield, Michigan, when it was found out that she had become pregnant by assisted reproductive technology.
Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro–this lesbian couple were fired from their teaching jobs at a St. Louis, Missouri, Catholic high school, when administrators learned they were a couple when they received the women’s joint mortgage application.
Paul Huff and Tom Wojtowick–these senior citizens who are a gay couple were dismissed from all their volunteer activities at their Montana parish and told they could not receive communion because they had recently legally married. They were told that if they divorced, ceased living together, and signed a statement renouncing their marriage.
Sam Albano–was told by his pastor to either give up his advocacy for LGBT equality or resign from leadership ministerial roles in the parish. He resigned.
Jamie Moore–was forced by the local archbishop to resign his position as music director at a Minnesota parish.
Lonnie Billard–it became public that a retired English and music teacher who had since been serving as a substitute was fired after a Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, learned that he became engaged to another man. The actual dismissal took place in July 2014.
Tyler McCubbin— a substitute teacher and track coach who had applied for a position to teach social sciences at a Des Moine, Iowa Catholic high school had his offer rescinded when it became public that he was engaged to marry a man.
Matthew Eledge–an English teacher and speech team coach did not have his contract renewed at an Omaha, Nebraska Catholic high school after he informed administrators of plans to marry a man.
*Anonymous–A lesbian kindergarten teacher was made to sign a severance agreement from her job at a Catholic school after she informed her employer of her plans to marry a woman. Because of a confidentiality agreement, her name was not made public in the press.
*Laurent Stefanini–France’s selection to be their ambassador to the Vatican has not been approved by the Holy See. Reports suggest that the Vatican’s denial was motivated by the fact that Stefanini, a seasoned diplomat, is gay, and because France legalized same-gender marriage in 2014.
Rick Estridge–resigned as vice president from Catholic Relief Services after a right-wing activist drew attention to his same-sex marriage and the organization failed to support him against public criticism.
Father Warren Hall–was removed as director of campus ministry from Seton Hall University, which is operated by the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, after he supported the NOH8 campaign in a Facebook post. In August 2016, he was then suspended from priestly ministry by Archbishop John Myers of Newark.
Margie Winters–was fired from her position as a religious education director at a Philadelphia-area Catholic elementary school when a few parents learned she was legally married to a woman–something administrators had been aware of for a number of years.
Abi Basch–resigned from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School in San Francisco to seek LGBT nondiscrimination protections following the months long debate around teaching contracts in the Archdiocese.
Lauren Brown–had her contract withdrawn from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland after she disclosed her sexual orientation; after public outcry the school quickly apologized and implemented a nondiscrimination policy.
Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa–was fired after coming out as gay and partnered from his position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later suspended from exercising priestly faculties by his home diocese in Poland.
John Murphy–was fired as the director of a Catholic assisted living facility in Virginia after Diocese of Richmond officials became aware of his same-gender marriage.
Sandor Demkovich–was fired as music director at a parish four days after marrying his husband and has since filed a discrimination complaint against the Archdiocese of Chicago with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Jeffrey Higgins — was fired as cantor at a Maryland church after parishioners reported seeing him and his husband at a local movie theater.
Kat Williams — was scheduled to perform at a Catholic Charities fundraiser until the local bishop cancelled the event because Williams, who had performed there twice before, is a married gay woman.
Tony Spence — was forced to resign as editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, an affiliate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, after tweeting about LGBT issues.
Kate Drumgoole — was fired from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, where she worked as the Dean of Guidance and women’s basketball coach, after an estranged family member leaked private photos of her and her wife to school officials.
Michael Templeton — was fired as the Music Director for the Church of St. Mary in Rhode Island for marrying his husband in 2015.
William di Canzio — was terminated as a lector at Daylesford Abbey, a Norbertine community near Philadelphia, based on discriminatory ministry guidelines released by Archbishop Charles Chaput.
Matt Tedeschi — was fired from his position as a religious studies teacher after he asked his administration to stop student harassment resulting from their discovery that he was gay.
Joshua Gonnerman — claims he was fired by a Catholic employer because he is a gay man, despite his being publicly celibate.
Ashley Tellis —says a Catholic school in India where he taught fired him because he is gay.