New York Catholic School teacher says he was fired after marrying longtime partner


A gay music teacher beloved by many of his students and community members said he was fired from a Catholic school in Queens six weeks after marrying his longtime partner, according to a released report.

Matthew LaBanca, known as Mr. Matt or Mr. LaBanca by his elementary students, told Inside Edition Digital that he lost his job at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Astoria, and his job as principal. musical at Corpus Christi Church after someone saw something online about her August 1 wedding and reported it to Brooklyn Diocese officials.

“From that moment on, the diocese wanted to know specifically: ‘Are you married? And was the marriage recorded anywhere? And it was, ”LaBanca said. “And, I understand that was a real sticking point for their decision to fire me.”

He said a diocesan committee of senior officials met for nearly six weeks to discuss the fate of his job and that on October 13 he learned of his dismissal.

“I was approached by a deacon from the Diocese of Brooklyn, widely regarded as Bishop DiMarzio’s right-hand man. He told me that in the 10 years he’s been doing this, it’s the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. He actually broke up and burst into tears, ”LaBanca said.

He added: “The fact that it took them six weeks to release nature to know whether or not I was allowed to stay tells me that internally within the diocese there is room for change. here. And that’s really my hope because these are two disparate communities, the LGBTQ community that, for generations, has felt ostracized as a whole because of the decisions made by the church.

LaBanca, who has taught at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy since 2015 and had been music director for nearly 16 years at Corpus Christ Church, said her sexuality was never an issue until she married her long-time sweetheart. dated.

“There were teachers who knew I was gay, but that was never on my plate. It was never really a problem. As far as I know, I haven’t advertised it. I wasn’t in the closet about it, but I didn’t advertise it or make any overt statements because I understand that for some people they have a hard time seeing beyond what their catechism is. or their culture, or their parochial state of mind has taught them to think. So I have always been respectful, ”he said.

His wedding in August was in Connecticut, which once had civil union laws, he said, but that’s no longer an option, adding that US laws have changed.

“The only option I had in the state of Connecticut was to get married, to have the legal right to do so. If he was in the hospital, and I needed to go visit him, to have the legal right to marry together on our taxes, and all the many benefits. These are just a few, ”he said. “I presented this case to the diocese because we were not seeking to change anything sacramentally in the diocese or in the church.

LaBanca told Inside Edition Digital that in a letter he wrote to the diocesan committee that was deciding his fate, he specifically used quotes from Pope Francis. “The Pope said: ‘What we need is a law on civil union. In this way, lesbian, gay, LGBTQ people are legally protected. We need civil unions.

After the dismissal, LaBanca said the diocese asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to receive severance pay. The deal, he said, “was a lot of ways of telling me not to talk about it.” It also included three months’ salary and health benefits, in return for his silence.

“When I asked ‘What are you going to tell my students, who I like and whom they like? What are you going to say to my choir at church, which is like family to me? I’ve known some of them for over 15 years, ”they said,“ All we can say is that Mr. LaBanca or Matthew is no longer with us.

LaBanca told Inside Edition Digital that he chose not to sign him.

“I can’t sign this because I love my job too much, because I love people too much, and they deserve to know. And I think now I know that has happened to a lot of people in the past. for various issues, but especially for the issue of LGBTQ same-sex marriage.

He added: “There was no price to put on my personal integrity, on my voice. And highlight this discriminatory act, ”said LaBanca.

“The severance package that was offered to me contained a very, very large confidentiality clause. It contained a very large non-denigration clause, a non-interference clause and a re-employment clause that said, and I said it. Now read, “You agree that you will not apply for re-employment with us or any parish, Catholic academy, or related entity in the Diocese of Brooklyn.” So that was part of that as well. “

LaBanca also told Inside Edition Digital that he was told in several meetings that committee members supported him. They said, “Matthew, you are loved. It has nothing to do with your performance at work, not at all, ”said LaBanca.

“They told me they wanted to be human. It was their word. And so if I wanted to go look for a job in the Archdiocese of New York, which is the Manhattan area, or if I wanted to go look for a job in Rockville Center, east of me on Long Island, then I would be free. to do . They would not stand in my way, ”he said.

LaBanca’s response to that was “if I’m allowed to do it there, then why am I not allowed to find work where I live?” He said. “It wasn’t just a church or a school. I am now banned from working because of my marriage throughout Queens County and Brooklyn County. So it sets me such a limitation and sets me such an unusual standard, because if I was allowed to work elsewhere, why wouldn’t I be allowed to work where I live? “

LaBanca, who is also a Broadway actor, said teaching his students was “a dream”, and described it as “his life calling”.

“I like to teach. And at the risk of sounding humble, the way I love my students, I think I was loved in return, ”LaBanca said.

Since his story was made public, LaBanca said he has received tremendous support and has heard people share their heartbreaking stories with him.

Last week, LaBanca created a Youtube video: “What happened to Mr. LaBanca?” In the video, LaBanca explains the details of his dismissal. The video has already garnered more than 22,000 views. He also started a petition to which has more than 5,100 signatures.

“I know that currently, as it is, the Catholic Church does not bless same-sex marriages, although there are other Christian churches, the Episcopal Church being one, the Lutheran Church, the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Jewish faith as well. There are many times, sometimes deeply rooted, that have found their way into this issue, ”he said. “And I hope, and I know, that a lot of other people are hoping that there could be some kind of fellowship, some kind of reconciliation, to move forward on this issue so that you don’t have to choose between being Catholic. and between being the way God created you because gay people don’t choose to be gay. Just the way straight guys don’t choose to be straight. This is how you are.

LaBanca said he was writing a play about this story and would continue to share his story in the hopes that what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Being fired from a job based on sexual orientation is wrong,” he said.

Inside Edition Digital has contacted St. Catholic Joseph Academy, but they did not respond to our request for comment.

Officials at the school and church where LaBanca worked confirmed that his dismissal was not due to not being good at his job and sent a statement to United States today.

“Based on the expectation that all staff in Catholic schools and academies, and ministers of the Church, conform to the teachings of the Church, as they share the responsibility of serving the faith to students. In his case, it has been determined that he can no longer fulfill his obligations as a minister of the faith in the school or in the parish, ”the statement read.

The statement goes on to say that “despite changes to New York State law in 2011 legalizing same-sex marriage, Church law is clear.”

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