Man fired from church after same-sex engagement files discrimination complaints

Thursday, December 4, 2014
Fired church employee files discrimination complaints
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A former church employee claims he was fired because he plans to marry his same-sex partner. Now, he has filed discrimination complaints.

INVERNESS, Ill. (WLS) -- A former Roman Catholic Church employee claims he was fired because he plans to marry his same-sex partner. Now, he has filed discrimination complaints over his termination.

Colin Collette was let go as the director of worship at Holy Family Parish in suburban Inverness back in July. He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawyers representing Collette say this could be a ground-breaking case that ends up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The legal issue is this: In Illinois, same-sex marriage is legal under state law.

Yet, under the U.S. constitution, there is freedom of religion, and churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, have a right to decide church leaders without the government interfering. So filing the discrimination complaints on the federal and county level begins what could be a long legal process.

"My pursuit now is about change and justice," Collette said.

Colin Collette took his first legal step Thursday against Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness, where he was fired in July after announcing on Facebook that he was engaged to his same-sex partner.

"It is with deep regret that I have had to pursue this course of action and I choose to do so only after multiple efforts at resolving the issue through open dialogue," Collette said.

Collette says he met with the pastor here who, according to the discrimination complaint, received an email from Francis Cardinal George about the same-sex marriage, instructing the pastor to "deal with this." Collette says when he did not resign, he was fired.

"Mr. Collette is being discriminated against based on his sexual orientation and his desire to enter into a legal same-sex marriage," said Kerry Lavelle, Collette's attorney.

Collette's attorneys say he has reached out to Chicago's new archbishop Blase Cupich - who, at a different event on Thursday, was asked about the complaint.

"The archdiocese has not seen the complaint yet, but we do intend to respond in the appropriate forum in which it was filed," Archbishop Cupich said. "And i think that's probably the best way for us to respond to it."

Parishioners who support Collette formed a group called "All Are Welcome." They meet and pray at the church, but say this issue, overall, has divided the parish.

"We miss him. I think it's sad he's not there," said Alan Bosslet, a Holy Family parishioner.

"There are the people who are supportive of Colin, there are the people happy that he's gone, and there's the middle of the road," said Dolores Siok, a Holy Family parishioner.

And in another legal twist, Collette has not married his same-sex partner yet. He says, after working at the parish for 17 years, he just wants to return to his position at Holy Family or, perhaps, another parish.