On Sunday January 10, DignityUSA and Dignity/Washington organized a peaceful witness to stand up to a local firing of a parish employee after the Archdiocese of Washington found out he had married his husband. Jeffrey Higgins, the cantor at Mother Seton Catholic Church in Germantown, Maryland, is the latest in an unfortunate series of dozens of firings of church workers over recent years because they were gay or had married their same-sex partner.
The witness in support of Jeffrey brought together a group of about twenty Catholics who stood outside the rural Maryland parish throughout the morning as parishioners came to and from Mass. Members of Dignity/Washington were joined by Jeffrey’s husband Robert, his parents, and others. Their action was broadly covered by local media, including WTOP radio, local NBC News 4, and the Washington Blade.
The Archdiocese released a statement standing by the firing of Jeffrey and saying that, “if someone chooses to live publicly in a manner that is incompatible with church teaching, their continued work in ministry becomes untenable.” Cardinal Donald Wuerl in a blog post also reiterated the decision and shared the church’s viewpoint.
DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, in a post reflecting on what 2016 may bring, pointed to the firing of Jeffrey Higgins and other such discriminatory terminations of gays and lesbians working at Catholic institutions around the country. But she also offered a message of support and hope, affirming that “DignityUSA will continue to provide support and guidance to those treated unjustly, as well as to the communities that rally in support of true Catholic teachings on the sacredness of work.”
Jeffrey is one of thousands of Church employees whose jobs are at risk because of who they are, whom they love, or because they exercise their civil right to marry their beloved. Catholic officials claim that entering a same-sex marriage is a public rejection of church teaching. Catholics know that LGBT people — even those in relationships or marriages — can be great employees for our parishes, schools, and social service agencies.
May we as Dignity/Washington continue to stand with those victims of the Church’s discriminatory practices and continue our everyday witness of God’s love for ourselves, our families, and our communities, in the Church and throughout the world.
Want to Take Action?
Show your support for Jeffrey and thousands of others. Please call Bishop Barry Knestout, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, at 301-853-4500. Tell him Jeffrey should not have lost his job. Malicious efforts to out LGBT people are mean, unjust, and violate our faith. LGBT people love the Church and work hard for the people of God. Our Church needs non-discrimination policies that protect all employees. This should never happen to anyone else!
Photo credit: Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade
Other News and Links
New Ways Ministry, Bondings 2.0 post by Bob Shine, January 9, 2016
New Ways Ministry Blog
WJLA-7 Local ABC, interview of Jeffrey Higgins, January 6, 2016 : Jeffrey Higgins Interview
Michelle Boorstein’s article from the Washington Post December 31, 2015: WashingtonPost Article