Michael Griffin taught French and Spanish at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania for twelve years. During that entire time, he’s been in a relationship with his same-sex partner. Indeed, according to Griffin, his partner’s “been to numerous school functions with me, he’s even been to [the headmaster’s] house.”
On Friday, Griffin applied for a marriage license with his partner — saying he was “excited to finally be able to marry” him after the state’s courts made marriage equality a reality in nearby New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, Griffin was called into his boss’ office.
“At a meeting in my office yesterday, teacher Michael Griffin made clear that he obtained a license to marry his same sex partner,” the school’s headmaster Fr. James McCloskey wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”
Presumably, the teachings of the Catholic Church include Romans 13:8-10, which instructs that we should “[o]we no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law,” and that “love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast that does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, so it is unlikely that Griffin will be able to seek legal recourse for the discrimination he faced.
Nevertheless, this incident highlights a looming issue facing the Supreme Court. The Court recently agreed to hear a pair of cases brought by religious employers claiming they are immune to a federal law requiring most employer-provided health plans to cover birth control. Yet, while the immediate issue in this case only concerns whether employers with religious objections to birth control can impress those views upon their employees, the case will likely have important consequences for gay rights. If five justices are willing to say that religious objections trump federal health law, the very next set of religious objectors to reach the Supreme Court are likely to be anti-gay employers seeking immunity from laws barring discrimination in other jurisdictions.