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 and cited “church law.”
A music teacher at a school in the New York City borough of Queens was fired by the Catholic Church just six weeks after his August wedding.
The teacher, Matthew LaBanca, says – and the church appears to have confirmed – that his termination from St. Joseph Catholic Academy in the neighborhood of Astoria was a result not of poor work performance or misconduct but rather of having a same-sex marriage. LaBanca was fired as music director at the nearby Corpus Christi Church 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 in the video that his termination was sparked when someone reached out to the Diocese of Brooklyn with information about his wedding in what he called “an apparent act of righteousness.” Diocese officials spent six weeks deliberating LaBanca's employment status before deciding to fire him earlier this month, he said.
LaBanca told the local outlet WABC-TV that he was surprised by the decision because he was out as gay before his wedding.
“I thought now, in 2021, we were moving forward and that this was not something I had to be concerned about,” he told the outlet.
While the state of New York prohibits employers from penalizing employees based on their sexual orientation and marital 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 in the YouTube video.
The diocese did not reject LaBanca's account, telling Insider “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 representative 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” Catholic doctrine with their public conduct.
LaBanca praised his former principal in the YouTube video, 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 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 hadn't decided whether he'd pursue legal action against the diocese but emphasized that he missed his job and, most of all, his students.
LaBanca did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
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