John M. Murphy was fired in April 2015, just eight days into his job as executive director of the St. Francis Home, according to court papers filed this month.
He says two diocese officials visited his office, Chief Financial Officer Michael McGee and Human Resources Officer Dorothy Mahanes, who told him they had learned he was gay. When Murphy confirmed this he was fired, he says.
According to the lawsuit, McGee then told him “same-sex marriage is antithetical to Roman Catholic church doctrine and this makes you unfit and ineligible to be executive director of St. Francis Home. We are here to advise you that your employment is terminated effective today,” Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
A spokeswoman for St. Francis Home said in October that “as a Catholic organization, we expect the employees of the diocese and its ministries to uphold and embody the consistent values and truths of the Catholic faith, including those preserving the sanctity of marriage.”
Murphy is married to his partner of 30 years, Jerry Carter.
Murphy also says his sexual orientation was never brought up during the month long interview process, but that it did come up on March 18, 2015, during a conversation about an upcoming fundraiser with the president of the board of directors, Tina Neal.
The lawsuit claims Neal told him that “staff and spouses were invited to attend and that (he) was welcome to bring his wife.”
Murphy says he told her he had a husband, not a wife.
“Since this was the first time this issue ever came up, (Murphy) asked Ms. Neal if his same-sex marriage status was an issue,” according to the lawsuit. “She shrugged and said it was not a problem and would not be an issue, stating: ‘This is 2015.'”
According to the lawsuit, Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo met with the board the day before firing Murphy, insisting they fire him “on the grounds of same-sex marriage.” They refused, and some discussed quitting, the lawsuit states.
Murphy says he has suffered mental and emotional distress and has not been able to find work and is asking for about $750,000 plus attorney fees.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order on January 11, 2014 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the public sector. There are no state or federal laws against this type of discrimination in the private sector, however.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would create federal protections for private sector employees of any company with at least 15 employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but has not passed despite being introduced into congress every year since 1994. Similar legislation has been introduced with passage since 1974.
Even if ENDA were to pass, it contains a religious exemption that would likely protect religiously owned institutions such as St. Francis Home in these types of cases.