- A gay teacher was fired from a Catholic school in Queens after he married his husband in August.
- Matthew LaBanca lost both his job as a teacher and as a music director at a nearby church.
- The Diocese of Brooklyn confirmed LaBanca had been terminated, citing “church law.”
A New York music teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Astoria was fired by the Catholic Church just six weeks after his August wedding.
But according to Matthew Labanca, his termination was not a result of poor work performance or misconduct. Instead, Labanca said he was fired for marrying his husband – resulting in the ultimate professional punishment for entering a same-sex marriage, despite most people in the parish knowing he is gay.
“I thought now, in 2021, we were moving forward and that this was not something I had to be concerned about,” Labanca told WABC-TV. He told the outlet he was out publicly.
In addition to teaching at St. Joseph’s, Labanca also served as music director at the nearby Corpus Christ Church as well. He was fired from that role as well.
“I’m stripped of both of my jobs, all of my employment, my health insurance and, most importantly, the community life that has meant so much to me, not because of my work performance – not in the slightest – but because I’m gay,” he said in a YouTube video recounting his experience.
LaBanca said his termination was sparked when someone reached out to the Diocese of Brooklyn with information about his wedding “in an apparent act of righteousness.” Diocese officials spent six weeks deliberating LaBanca’s employment status before deciding to fire him earlier this month, LaBanca said.
While the State of New York prohibits employers from penalizing employees based on their sexual orientation and marriage status, the First Amendment’s religious protections allowed for LaBanca’s legal termination from the Catholic Church entities.
“But just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right,” he said.
The diocese did not reject LaBanca’s account, telling Insider that “Church law is clear.”
“Matthew’s contract has been terminated based on the expectation that all Catholic school and academy personnel, and ministers of the church comply with church teachings as they share in the responsibility of ministering the faith to students,” a spokesperson for the diocese said.
“In his case, it has been determined that he can no longer fulfill his obligations as a minister of the faith at either the school or the parish,” the statement added.
The statement highlighted a condition within teacher contracts that requires employees “to support and exemplify” his/her public conduct consistent with Catholic Doctrine and Morality.
LaBanca praised his former principal, calling him his “fiercest advocate,” and placed the blame on Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who leads the Brooklyn Diocese.
He said he was offered a severance package that included a nearly 10-page long gag order.
“Obviously I have not signed it, because I realized no price could be placed on my personal integrity,” LaBanca said.
He told WABC-TV he hasn’t yet decided if he will pursue legal action against the diocese, but emphasized that he misses his job and misses his students most of all.
LaBanca did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.