A man allegedly fired in April 2015 by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond for being gay has filed a federal lawsuit claiming discrimination.
John M. Murphy claims in court papers filed this month that just eight days into his job as executive director of the St. Francis Home in Richmond, two diocese officials visited his office — Chief Financial Officer Michael McGee and Human Resources Officer Dorothy Mahanes.
Murphy is suing St. Francis. He is claiming that the home, which is listed “as a Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond” on its website, discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.
Murphy alleges that on the day McGee and Mahanes visited his office, the pair said they had learned he was gay, a fact he confirmed.
According to the lawsuit, McGee then told him “same-sex marriage is antithetical to Roman Catholic church doctrine and this makes you unfit and ineligible to be executive director of St. Francis Home. We are here to advise you that your employment is terminated effective today.”
McGee and Mahanes were not available for comment Tuesday evening. Diocese spokeswoman Deborah Cox said in a statement that the diocese is aware of the lawsuit.
“The St. Francis Home is a religious-based, nonprofit care facility located in Richmond, Va., that serves the low-income elderly and people with disabilities, as part of the diocese’s ministry,” the statement said. “A copy of the lawsuit has been provided to our attorney and the diocese declines any other comment about the matter at this time.”
A different spokeswoman said in October that “as a Catholic organization, we expect the employees of the diocese and its ministries to uphold and embody the consistent values and truths of the Catholic faith, including those preserving the sanctity of marriage.”
In the lawsuit, Murphy says his sexual orientation was never discussed during the interview process, which lasted more than a month.
He claims that the first time it came up was on March 18 of last year — 13 days after he was offered the job — at a meeting with Tina Neal, president of St. Francis’ board of directors.
Neal, the lawsuit alleges, mentioned a fundraiser scheduled for May 2 and told him that “staff and spouses were invited to attend and that (he) was welcome to bring his wife.”
Murphy says he informed Neal that he was married to his male partner of 30 years.
“Since this was the first time this issue ever came up, (Murphy) asked Ms. Neal if his same-sex marriage status was an issue,” according to the lawsuit. “She shrugged and said it was not a problem and would not be an issue, stating: ‘This is 2015.’ ”
Neal did not respond to a phone call or email seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, after his firing Neal said she and the board members who make up the executive committee had met with Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo the previous day. The bishop, the suit alleges, “insisted that the executive committee terminate plaintiff on the grounds of same-sex marriage.”
The committee refused and several members discussed quitting, according to the lawsuit.
Murphy says he has suffered mental and emotional distress and has not been able to find work.
He is asking for about $750,000 plus attorney fees.