A gay former Catholic choir director has sued the church where he used to work for firing him after he announced plans to marry his partner.
Colin Collette, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Cook County Human Rights Commission, filed the suit Thursday against Holy Family Parish in Inverness and its pastor at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.
Collette says he was fired over the summer from his position as the choir director at Holy Family when he announced his engagement to his longtime partner.
“It saddens me to have this integral part of my life taken away because I have chosen to enter into a marriage, as is my right under Illinois law,” he said.
It remains unclear if the state’s gay marriage law will impact the Catholic Church.
“The courts will make that determination,” said Collette’s lawyer Kerry Lavelle. “[Collette] is not yet married. He is moving towards that, and he has that right under Illinois law.”
In September, Collette met with Cardinal Francis George to discuss his situation. He called the meeting “spiritual” and said her had a “wonderful conversation.”
Collette said Chicago Archbishop Blasé Cupich has not returned his calls.
On Thursday, Cupich said he was not familiar with the suit.
“We do intend to respond in the appropriate form in which it was filed, and I think that’s probably the best way for us to respond to it,” Cupich said.
Previously, the Archdiocese of Chicago said it was aware of the situation at Holy Family, but would not comment on an individual's personal employment issues.
"Pastors hire and dismiss all parish personnel and govern according to the teachings of the Church and Archdiocesan policies. This is a matter of personal integrity on their part," the archdiocese said in a statement. "Those that serve as Ministers of the Church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the Church."
Cardinal George said before his meeting with Collette that it was Collette's decision that "caused this crisis."
For Collette, however, the suit is a step toward changing the ways of the church he remains committed to.
“My pursuit now is about change and justice, about acceptance and openness in the church,” he said.
Parishioners said the dispute has left churchgoers at odds.
“It has divided the parish tremendously,” said parishioner Delores Siok. “Being there for 25 years, I would walk in and be welcomed by so many. Now you walk in, and they kind of turn your head, because they know you’re in the other camp.”