A Virginia man says the bishop of a local Catholic diocese forced his removal from the top job at a diocese-owned assisted living home because he's gay and married to his partner of 30 years. John Murphy filed a discrimination claim against the Catholic Diocese of Richmond with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month. He says he had been told by the president of the home's board of directors, which is made up of the bishop's appointees and handles hiring, that his relationship wouldn't be a problem, but he served as executive director of the Saint Francis Home in Richmond for only about a week before two deputies of Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo told him that he was being fired because his marriage goes against church doctrine. Murphy was terminated without severance pay and he and his husband, a retired clinical social worker, are relying primarily on Social Security benefits to get by, he said. The 63-year-old lifelong Catholic said the incident has shaken his faith in his church.
Diana Sims Snider, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, declined to answer specific questions about Murphy's charges, saying she cannot comment on personnel matters. But she said the diocese sees it as a First Amendment issue and expects its employees to uphold the teachings of the church, "including the values that are consistent with the sanctity of marriage. ... We expect that a Catholic organization or any religious organization should be able to follow the teachings of our faith. We are saying: this is what we do as Catholics, this is what we expect of our employees because this is what we believe to be true." The Saint Francis Home's day-to-day operations are handled by lay administrators. The diocese doesn't fund the home's yearly operating expenses, but it supports the home in other ways, like allowing it to solicit funds from parishioners, Snider said. Click for more on the case. (Read more discrimination stories.)