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Illinois music director suing church that fired him for getting engaged

Naith Payton December 10, 2014

An Illinois music director is suing the Catholic church, after he was sacked for announcing his intention to marry his male partner.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Illinois, and Colin Collette’s employers, Holy Family Parish in Inverness, already knew he was gay.

However, earlier this year when he posted on Facebook that he was now engaged to his partner, the church’s pastor asked him to resign. He refused, and was fired the next day.

Collette, who worked for the church for 17 years, this week announced he would sue the parish for his job back.

Churches in the US have a “ministerial exemption” from workplace discrimination laws in the state, meaning they can fire their employees for being gay. There is no federal law protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination.

Kerry Lavelle, Collette’s lawyer, believes this case is unique, telling The Huffington Post: “In the other cases, people weren’t fired for getting married, they were fired for being gay. And [Holy Family] has known for years that Colin is gay.”

“Maybe they will argue that he’s being fired for being gay. But if they do say that, they’ve waited 17 years to announce it.”

Collette hopes his case will help other gay Catholics in the future. He said: “My goal is not just to continue a career in a community I love. Directing both worship and the music ministry is truly my vocation: It is who I am.

“It saddens me to have this integral part of my life taken away because I have chosen to enter into a marriage, as is my right under Illinois law.

“I look forward to a resolution of the issue, and I hope in addition to being allowed to return to my ministry, that perhaps I can open the door for other women and men the church has chosen to exclude.”

A ‘gifted’ gay musician who worked for the Catholic church in Virginia for over 30 years was also fired in April, because he married his same-sex partner

More: Catholic, Church, marriage, US

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