Pending Pa. legislation would have protected Bucks teacher fired over same-sex marriage

    A Bensalem teacher has been fired for planning to marry his same-sex partner. Michael Griffin was dismissed from his job at Holy Ghost Preparatory School last week after informing officials at the Catholic school of his intention to wed.

    Had pending Pennsylvania legislation to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation been in effect, Griffin would still be teaching, said state Sen. Daylin Leach. Griffin would have been covered even if had he signed a school contract that mandated school employees follow teachings of the Catholic Church, Leach contended.

    “If it was illegal to fire a gay person, it would be illegal to fire someone even if they signed a contract saying, ‘You can fire me because I’m gay.’ Those sorts of contracts are usually rendered unenforceable by this type of law,” said Leach, D-Montgomery.

    “Typically the courts interpret such laws to mean not only can’t you fire someone because they’re, let’s say Italian, but you also can’t require them to sign a contract as a condition of employment saying that if we find out you’re Italian, we can fire you,” he said.

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    Griffin “made clear that he obtained a license to marry his same- sex partner,” said the Rev. James McCloskey, Holy Ghost Prep headmaster, in a written statement. “Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment.

    “In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony,” McCloskey said. “Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”

    ‘A disturbing trend,’ says Human Rights Campaign

    The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, criticized the teacher’s firing and said it is part of “a disturbing trend.”

    Fifteen LGBT teachers have been fired from Catholic schools in the past two years, according to the HRC. “Under federal statutory and constitutional provisions, religious institutions are able to make employment decisions based on their faith traditions,” it said.

    Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited by federal law and, without a federal or state law, Pennsylvania residents live by a patchwork of local laws.

    In response to the proposed state legislation to include sexual orientation protections, Francis Viglietta of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said he planned to lobby against the legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

    “There’s a difference here between the pastoral mission of the Church — loving everyone and not discriminating against anyone — and putting into public policy a law which in effect would limit our ability to serve the people of this commonwealth in ways that are consistent with Catholic teaching,” Viglietta said.

    Leach said it’s disgraceful that, while other states are legalizing gay marriage, Pennsylvania is failing to protect people from being fired for being gay. The legislation is currently before the House State Government Committee. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that does not ban discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

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