The Brooklyn Diocese fired a gay teacher in Queens earlier this month after officials discovered he married another man, and designated him a minister to exploit a loophole that allows religious institutions to skirt employment law, according to The New York Times. Matthew LaBanca, formerly a music teacher at St. Joseph Catholic Academy and music director at Corpus Christi Church, has no formal religious training. He did not preach or religiously educate in either of his positions. But he was fired on Oct. 13 after marrying his longtime boyfriend on Aug. 1.
Though discrimination by employers on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal, religious institutions are given discretion to fire employees in ministerial positions if they don’t uphold the values of the faith. In a statement to Times, the diocese called LaBanca a “music teacher and minister,” and said he had violated the terms of his teaching contract. In response, LaBlanca said that “minister” is “a strong label for what I do.” School and church officials reportedly took an unheard-of six weeks to discuss whether LaBanca should be fired. A Change.org petition circulated by the school and church communities demanding his reappointment to both positions has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.