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Gay couple ejected from choir after announcing marriage

Gay couple ejected from choir after announcing marriage

A Catholic pastor ordered two men out of the choir because they went public with their same-sex wedding, the men said. Michael Sabatino Jr., who has sung in the choir for 32 years, said he and his partner, Robert Voorheis, were confronted Sunday by Monsignor Edmund Whalen as they entered St. Benedict's Church in the Bronx, N.Y. Between September 28 and October 5, the Yonkers men were profiled on the front page of The [White Plains, N.Y.] Journal News, featured in an article on gay marriage on, and married in a United Church of Canada ceremony in Ontario that was announced in The New York Times. Whalen "told us he couldn't have us in a public ministry after going public in the newspapers," Sabatino told The Journal News. "He said, 'I have parishioners who are complaining."' When Sabatino and Voorheis asked Whalen for his decision in writing, Whalen told them he would "shut down the choir" rather than allow them to sing in it, Sabatino said. Whalen referred questions to Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, who said, "I don't know these individuals or the specifics of their circumstances, but in the church, if there is the possibility of what we call scandal and there would be a possibility that the teachings of the church would be questioned or people could believe that the teachings of the church on a certain matter had changed or were unimportant, a pastor has not only the right but the obligation to act." On June 22 both men received certificates from the parish, signed by Whalen, commending them for their "noteworthy participation" in the choir. When they told fellow choir members about their ejection, "it was a shock to the choir. There were a lot of tears," said member Charles Koczka. Sabatino said he and Voorheis may join Zion Episcopal Church in Dobbs Ferry, which performs commitment ceremonies for gay couples.

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