North Carolina

Music director at Catholic church fired for marrying partner of 23 years

Steav Bates-Congdon (right) and Bill Bates-Congdon

Steav Bates-Congdon (right) and Bill Bates-Congdon Charlotte Observer

The popular music director at a Charlotte Catholic church has lost his job because he married his partner of 23 years in New York, one of seven states to recognize same-sex marriages.

Charlotte Observer

Steav Bates-Congdon (right) and Bill Bates-Congdon

Steav Bates-Congdon was fired from St. Gabriel Catholic Church in south Charlotte in January, more than six months after he and his spouse Bill Bates-Congdon married, reported the Charlotte Observer.

On Jan. 19, just back from a honeymoon trip to Mexico, followed by an emergency stay at Carolinas Medical Center for a ruptured appendix, he checked out of the hospital and dropped by St. Gabriel.

There, he was handed a note by the Rev. Frank O’Rourke, the pastor with whom he had closely worked for more than four years.

It read: “Employees of St. Gabriel … are expected to live within the moral tradition of the Church…Your civil marriage stands in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church, therefore ending your employment with us, effective today.”

Steav Bates-Congdon said that he informed the pastor of his marriage plans, and that O’Rourker said he was happy for him but could not give him his blessing. He said he doesn’t understand why O’Rourke didn’t warn him that he could be fired.

Bates-Congdon, 61, a former Methodist minister and now an Episcopalian, joined St. Gabriel in 2004, and parishioners say he’s been open about his sexual orientation since his first interviews.

David Hains, a spokesman for the diocese, told the Oserver that “Mr. Congdon’s ‘civil union,’ is a public statement in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage as a lifelong, exclusive covenant between one man and one woman.”

North Carolina does not recognize same-sex marriages, and a constitutional amendment to define marriage between one man and one woman goes before voters in May.

The state’s non-discrimination and hate crimes laws do not provide any protections for sexual orientation or gender identity. A Supreme Court in January allows churches and their schools to hire and fire ministerial employees without government interference.

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