A high-school teacher at a suburban Philadelphia Catholic high school has been fired after applying for a marriage license in New Jersey with his partner of 12 years.
Michael Griffin, who taught Spanish and French at Holy Ghost Preparatory Schol in Bensalem, PA. and is also an alumnus of the high school, was told his marriage license “contradicts the terms of his teaching contract,” as stated in a statement from the school.
“I applied for a marriage license since NJ now has marriage equality,” the 35-year-old educator wrote in a Facebook post. “After 12 years together I was excited to finally be able to marry my partner. Because of that, I was fired from Holy Ghost Preparatory School today. I am an alumnus of the school and have taught there for 12 years. I feel hurt, saddened, betrayed and except for this post, am at a loss for words.”
In an email sent on Dec. 3, Griffin informed Principal Jeffrey Danilak of his decision to apply for a marriage license in their home state of New Jersey after a state judge ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey in late September. The judge ordered state officials to begin officiating same-sex marriages on Oct. 21.
On Friday, President Fr. James McCloskey and Danilak terminated Griffin’s contract and told him the decision was effective immediately.
The school’s 87-page handbook includes the Teacher’s Code of Conduct which Griffin believes was the clause used for Griffin’s termination.
“Although the school welcomes teachers from other denominations and recognizes their rights to religious freedom, as employees of a Catholic institution, all teachers are expected to uphold lifestyles compatible with the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church,” the handbook states.
Griffin told msnbc.com he was aware of the provision but he was still shocked by the school’s decision. “My partner came to school functions with me and a school administrator attended the ceremony after our civil union in 2008,” Griffin said in a phone conversation. “I even asked the president if it’d be ok to bring him to a holiday party at his home very early on in my teaching career.”
“There were plenty of opportunities for the school to know about my relationship,” he said.
“I don’t think I did anything brave. I had a domestic partnership, a civil union and the marriage license was a formality. We’ve done this twice before and I just went to fill out some paperwork.”
Holy Ghost’s decision is currently legal under Pennsylvania state law as the state has not passed anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation. While Democrats have proposed a House bill that would include clauses protecting sexual orientation, Republican leaders have stalled the bill, arguing that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a Catholic himself, would not sign it.
“What the school thinks they did was legal. It certainly doesn’t feel legal,” said Griffin.
But Griffin said he is focused on moving forward and wants his students to know that he will continue to live his life as a moral person.
“Holy Ghost helped form me to be the person that I am today,” he wrote on Facebook Saturday. “Even though I am no longer employed there, I wanted to share their mission and philosophy, because I feel like I have tried to make it my life’s philosophy as best I can, even now. I am trying to move forward with a peaceful heart and wish nothing but the best to my colleagues and students who mean the world to me.”