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Human Rights : 2nd Catholic church employee says he was fired over same-sex marriage

2nd Catholic church employee says he was fired over same-sex marriage.


An employee of a Catholic church in the Chicago Archdiocese has filed a
complaint saying he was fired after he got married to his male partner, his
lawyers said Thursday.


Sandor Demkovich was the music director at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in
Calumet City until last year, when he was fired for marrying his male partner,
according to a complaint filed Sept. 30 with the federal Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights against the
archdiocese.


The case is similar to that of a music director at another church, Holy
Family Catholic Community in Inverness, who said he was let go after announcing
his engagement on Facebook. Colin Collette said church leaders knew he was gay
long before he posted his engagement on Facebook but was told at the time that
his same-sex relationship violated the tenets of the Catholic Church.


Collette's lawyers, who also represent Demkovich, said Thursday the
Archdiocese of Chicago will not participate in mediation over his discrimination
claim.


Collette, who worked for 17 years at Holy Family, filed his discrimination
charge with the EEOC last year following his termination in July.


The attorney for both men, Kerry Lavelle, said Demkovich's termination was an
abrupt departure because the pastor supported the relationship and even said he
wanted to attend the wedding.


Demkovich alleges in his complaint that the church's pastor said his "union"
was against the teachings of the Catholic Church and also told a choir member
that he thought Demkovich and his partner "were going to keep this quiet and not
make it public." In addition, Demkovich said he was harassed about his weight,
obesity and diabetic condition to the point that it created a "hostile and
intimidating work environment."


"We once again see a pattern of acceptance and inclusion by the parish
pastor, and the parish congregation in general, of an openly gay qualified
employee suddenly reversed as soon as he enters into a legal marriage," Lavelle
said in a statement.


The EEOC sometimes tries mediation as an informal way to settle a
discrimination complaint, but an investigator takes over the case if the effort
proves fruitless.


"If an employer refuses to participate in mediation, the EEOC will proceed
with its administrative process," said EEOC spokeswoman Justine Lisser, who
spoke generally and would not comment on the specific case at hand.


Collette was disappointed by the archdiocese's decision, Lavelle said.
Neither Collette nor Demkovich could be reached for comment.


A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said in a prepared statement: "Mr. Colin
Collette and Mr. Sandor Demkovich have filed complaints with public agencies who
are still investigating the matters. The Archdiocese of Chicago has responded to
the agencies and these matters remain pending. We do not comment on the progress
of such matters."


After Collette's dismissal, the archdiocese released a statement in August
2014 saying that it does not comment on personnel issues but that, "Pastors hire
and dismiss all parish personnel and govern according to the teachings of the
church and archdiocesan policies. … Those that serve as ministers of the church,
including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with
the teachings of the church."


Lavelle said it's unfortunate that, while Collette and his partner now have
the right to marry under U.S. law, "not all agree that he has a right to be
employed under that same law."


Illinois' same-sex marriage law went into effect on June 1, 2014, but a 2012
U.S. Supreme Court ruling granted a "ministerial exception" from employment
discrimination laws. Religious institutions are allowed to hire and fire
employees who fulfill religious roles, though who exactly that covers remains
unclear.


Collette's dismissal spurred an outpouring of support from the community.
Hundreds of people packed a meeting shortly after his firing, many of whom spoke
in his support, and a church cantor resigned his position in protest. Collette
also met with Cardinal Francis George, now deceased. 
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