A gay Catholic music director has filed a discrimination complaint in connection with his firing from Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
Colin Collette, who said he’d been out within the congregation where he worked for nearly two decades, said this summer that he’d been fired from the church after getting engaged to his partner, Will Nifong.
An August meeting about the matter drew a crowd of 700 people, many of whom stood to applaud Collette when he entered the church. The Holy Family pastor said in a church bulletin that Collette couldn’t be retained as an employee because he’d “publicly endorsed a position in conflict with Church teachings.”
On Thursday, Collette spoke at a press conference about the discrimination complaint.
“It is with deep regret that I have had to pursue this course of action. I have chosen to enter into a marriage, as is my right under Illinois law, and perhaps I can open the door to other men and women who the church has chosen to exclude from the community,” Collette said, the Chicago Tribune reports.
He filed the complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Cook County Commission on Human Rights.
According to the Tribune, the success of Collette’s claim may depend on the interpretation of his former job and whether it is considered a religious/ministerial role, in which case an exemption to antidiscrimination laws could be invoked.
The Tribune could not reach Holy Family officials for comment, and the Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement saying, “The Archdiocese of Chicago has not seen the complaints that Mr. Collette has filed with the civil authorities and so we are unable to comment on them. We will respond to the complaints in the forums in which they are filed at the appropriate time.”
Collette had discussed his situation with Cardinal Francis George before George’s recent retirement as Chicago archbishop, but that did not result in any change in Collette’s job status. He has sought a meeting with George’s successor, Blase Cupich, but failed to receive a response, said Collette’s attorney, Kerry LaVelle.
“The archbishop will not take his calls,” Lavelle said, according to the Tribune. “[Collette] wants his job back. That’s what this is about.”