A Maryland Roman Catholic church was the site of a protest Sunday over the termination of a gay musician whose marriage is considered a violation of Catholic doctrine.
“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 as he and his husband, Robert Higgins, joined their supporters outside Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown, Md., which is near Washington, D.C.
The church hired Jeffrey Higgins as a part-time music minister in June 2014, the Blade reports. But he was fired last November after parishioners at Mother Seton spotted him and his husband at a local theater, then found pictures of their 2013 wedding on Facebook. Rev. Lee Fangmeyer, the church’s pastor, called Higgins in and asked him to resign. When Higgins refused, he was fired, and his termination was upheld by the Archdiocese of Washington.
“Your entering into a civil same-sex marriage is a public act contrary to church teaching on marriage and is incompatible with a position as a liturgical minister in the church,” Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout wrote to Higgins last month, according to the Blade. “While you claim the freedom to act as you choose, you can recognize that the church too, has the freedom and also the obligation to teach and live according to her identity.” It also said Higgins “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.
Jeffrey Higgins’s mother, Maria, joined her son and son-in-law at the protest, holding a sign reading, “We are the church and we would not fire Jeffrey.” She tearfully told the Blade, “I feel very, very sad about the situation. I feel very proud of Jeffrey and Robert and I’m very proud to stand here.”
“It’s ridiculous in this day and age,” another protester, Larry Ranley, told the paper of Higgins’s firing. “You can be a faithful Catholic and not believe everything,” added Ranley, a member of the Washington chapter of LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA.
There have been numerous cases of employees being terminated by Catholic churches, schools, and social service agencies for being in same-sex marriages. Recently, however, a Massachusetts court found that a Catholic school there violated state antidiscrimination law by withdrawing a job offer from a married gay man, noting that the job, food services director, had nothing to do with religion.