Catholic School Teacher Fired for Breaking 'Morality' Clause by Marrying a Man

A Catholic school teacher has been fired from his job after the Brooklyn Diocese determined he had violated "Catholic doctrine and morality" by marrying a man.

As first reported by the New York Daily News, Matthew LaBanca was simultaneously let go from his roles as a music teacher at St. Joseph's Catholic Academy in Astoria and music director at Corpus Christi church on October 13 after Diocese officials learned he had married his husband, Rowan, on August 1.

The reasons behind his firing first came to light after LaBanca posted a video to YouTube on Friday in which he claimed a member of the local community reported information about his wedding in "an apparent act of righteousness."

"A Diocesan committee of high-ranking officials met for almost six weeks to discuss the fate of my employment and to answer the question: 'Should Matthew be allowed to remain at his jobs?'" LaBanca said. "The answer turned out to be no."

LaBanca noted that while such actions are illegal in the state of New York, the first amendment means religious institutions are "allowed to legally discriminate."

"But just because something is legal, doesn't make it right," he says on the video.

While New York state and city laws prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, religious institutions represent something of a grey area when it comes to these regulations.

LaBanca noted the school's principal was his "fiercest advocate," but alleged that "ultimately" the decision to fire him was made by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the seventh Bishop of Brooklyn.

He said he was offered a severance package that amounted to three months salary and included a "gag order" that was almost 10 pages long.

LaBanca said he opted not to sign the order as he realized "no price could be placed on my personal integrity."

"I'm stripped of both of my jobs, all of my employment, my health insurance and, most importantly, the community life that has meant so much to me, not because of my work performance — not in the slightest — but because I'm gay," he said.

The video, which has amassed more than 16,000 views, was posted alongside a link to an online petition demanding he be reappointed to both his previously held positions.

At the time of writing, the petition had garnered over 1,200 signatures.

In a statement to the New York Daily News, officials from St. Joseph's Catholic Academy and Corpus Christi church confirmed LaBanca was fired for violating a clause in his contract that dictates teachers must "support and exemplify by his/her public conduct Catholic doctrine and morality."

"Despite changes to New York State law in 2011 legalizing same-sex marriage, Church law is clear," they said.

"In his case, it has been determined that he can no longer fulfill his obligations as a minister of the faith at either the school or the parish."

LaBanca rejected this claim, telling the news outlet that "many" other members of staff are "not living up to church teachings" yet have not been punished in this way.

He went on to brand his firing as a "capricious, discriminatory practice against the LGBTQ community."

"Gay people don't choose to be gay any more than straight people choose to be straight," he added.

Newsweek has contacted LaBanca and Bishop DiMarzio for comment.

Bishop DiMarzio's involvement comes just over a month after he was exonerated by the Vatican of separate sexual abuse allegations made by two men while he was a priest in New Jersey 50 years ago.

The Vatican closed its investigation into the accusations, concluding that the men's accusations do "not have the semblance of truth."

Back in May, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn hit the headlines after a statue of baby Jesus being held in the arms of Mary was "decapitated" in an apparent act of vandalism.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
This September 24, 2015, file photo shows Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio as Pope Francis, right, arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York - Bishop DiMarzio has been accused of instigating the firing of a teacher after it was discovered he had married his husband. Craig Ruttle/AP Photo