A volunteer at a Long Island Catholic parish has demanded reinstatement after being dismissed when the church received an anonymous letter revealing he was gay.

Nicholas Coppola spoke to Newsday to say that he would deliver petitions with over 18,000 signatures to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, after he was relieved from his duties at St Anthony’s parish.

Despite saying he had been openly gay for years, Coppola was dismissed when the diocese received a complaint letter from an anonymous parishioner, that he was gay.

Coppola was a volunteer as a Eucharistic minister, religion teacher, and a visitor for homebound sick. He married his partner in October 2012, under the state’s equal marriage law.

Faithful America, a group based in Washington DC, which opposes “right-wing extremism”, led the petition drive to have him reinstated.

The petition on the Faithful America website read: “Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish — and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese.”

The diocese responded to say that anyone in a public ministerial position must be publicly in line with Catholic teachings. The Catholic church has adamantly and continually refused to support or acknowledge same-sex relationships.

Last week an Irish Catholic bishop said same-sex relationships would never be seen as “equal” to heterosexual relationships and marriages.