An openly gay Long Island parishioner removed from volunteer duties at a Catholic church after he married his partner of 10 years plans to formally demand reinstatement.
Nicholas Coppola, 47, said he will deliver petitions signed by more than 18,000 supporters to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Coppola, who was born and raised Catholic, has been an active member of St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church in Oceanside. He volunteered at the church, participating in services and teaching a children's religion class. But he was stripped of those duties when he and his partner, David Crespo, became legally married.
"It has been difficult, very difficult for me," said Coppola. "Because I'm trying to fill that void of good deeds."
"I was accepted into the church being openly gay," said Coppola. "But once I got married, which went against Catholic teaching, they had to remove me from my teaching position."
Coppola said being openly gay was never an issue with his parish. In fact, in the parish yearbook, Coppola and Crespo are pictured together as a couple. Coppola said parishioners and even some clergy attended their October wedding.
But news of their wedding was not well received by the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Bishop Bob Brennan sent Rev. Nicholas Lombardi at St. Anthony's a letter stating the diocese had received a letter from an anonymous person saying a married, gay man was teaching religion at the church.
Brennan said in the letter, "While not on a witch hunt, I know it would be of concern to you if a catechist were in fact 'married' as described."
The petition drive to reinstate him was led by Faithful America, a Washington, D.C. group that opposes "right-wing extremism."
The diocese says anyone in public ministerial positions must take public positions consistent with Catholic teachings.
Coppola married his partner last October under the state's same-sex marriage law.