Local man files federal discrimination claim against Catholic-run non profit
A local man’s firing from a Richmond non-profit connected to the Catholic church could lead to protections for LGBTQ folks nationwide.
John Murphy, 63, entered the complex legal world of discrimination cases after being fired from a Catholic-run elderly care facility just eight days after he started working there in the Spring of 2015.
Murphy responded to a blind job application for an executive director position and was offered the job. Before long he was working through the hiring process for the The St. Francis Home which is Catholic Diocese of Richmond.
Murphy (top image right) was raised Catholic, graduated from Notre Dame, and still attended church semi-regularly, but he was an openly gay man who’d been legally married to his partner, Jerry Carter (top image left), of 30 years since 2008.
“I had a little bit of misgiving,” Murphy said about taking the job when he announced his Equal Opportunity Employment Commission complaint in October of last year.
“When I got to the next interviews, they said they really wanted me to focus… less on the religious aspect of it,” he said.
Murphy started the job in late March. He worked there for eight business days until April 1 when he received a message from two representatives from the Richmond Catholic Dioceses saying they wanted to meet with him.
He’d hadn’t met anyone from the diocese yet, so he figured it was a welcoming committee.
“It was not,” he said. “The CFO, and the human resources rep from the diocese came to my office and stated to me… ‘same-sex marriage is antithetical to Roman Catholic Church doctrine. This makes you unfit and ineligible to be the executive director of St. Francis home.’”
He was given a pink slip and has been fighting it ever since.
This lawsuit is the second step in a discrimination complaint. Murphy and his lawyer, Aubry Ford, filed an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission complaint back in October, the first step in claiming unjust treatment at work. Now, 180 days later, Murphy has the right to move that complaint into federal court if the EEOC hasn’t ruled on the issue.
While the EEOC has staid mum on Murphy’s case, they have shown support for LGBTQ folks in the past.
In July, 2015, the federal body ruled in favor of David Baldwin who claimed he was unjustly denied a job as a Supervisory Air Traffic Control Specialist after a superior had made negative comments about his sexual orientation. In that case, the EEOC ruled LGBTQ people were protected under the Title VII:
First, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily involves treating an employee differently because of his or her sex. For example, a lesbian employee disciplined for displaying a picture of her female spouse can allege that an employer took a different action against her based on her sex where the employer did not discipline a male employee for displaying a picture of his female spouse. Sexual orientation discrimination is also sex discrimination because it is associational discrimination on the basis of sex. That is, an employee alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is alleging that the employer took the employee’s sex into account by treating him or her differently for associating with a person of the same sex. Finally, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is sex discrimination because it necessarily involves discrimination based on gender stereotypes, including employer beliefs about the person to whom the employee should be attracted.
The EEOC, however, is not a legal body, and their stance on issues like Title VII can be used to advise judges in courtrooms, but are not taken as precedent.
Murphy and Ford both declined to comment as the case was still in development. And According to the Times-Dispatch, the Richmond Catholic Dioceses is aware of the lawsuit and sent a statement acknowledging the case saying the non-profit “declines any other comment about the matter at this time.”
Something to keep in mind as this case continues: St. Francis House might be owned by the local Catholic Diocese but it is not considered part of the church’s spiritual work. And according to Murphy, the job he was hired to do had nothing to do with spiritual work.
One only has to look at the TD’s comments section to find those who oppose Murphy’s fight, but support exists as well. James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia, said there’s a difference between religious freedom and discrimination and this case could help prove that.
“Last year, most Americans, and most Catholics, were shocked to learn that Mr. Murphy was fired by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond solely because he is gay, so that he is now seeking compensation should come as no surprise,” said Parrish in a statement. ”Equality Virginia supports John in his pursuit for justice after his unlawful termination and hope that this will dissuade other institutions from similar acts of discrimination in the future.”
“I hope more people like me will be emboldened to speak up about the unfairness and illegality of this.”November 9, 2015
- The RTD published an OpEd about the firing of gay man from a Catholic-run care facility and left out some important facts, October 22, 2015
- John Murphy was fired from a local non-profit because he married his partner of 30 years, October 14, 2015
- Gay man fired by Bishop of Richmond Catholic Diocese files federal discrimination claim, October 13, 2015
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