COLUMBUS, Ohio — Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady has been in the Catholic youth ministry, and he has hosted leadership retreats for young Catholics. He has spoken at Catholic schools and has sponsored ball teams throughout the Diocese of Columbus.
But because of his support for marriage equality and his ceremonial post as a co-chairman of Freedom Ohio, the group seeking a 2014 statewide vote to expand marriage rights, O’Grady was removed last weekend as the commencement speaker at Bishop Ready High School.
The order, allegedly, came from Bishop Frederick Campbell, the head of the Columbus Diocese.
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Campbell is the same man who ordered the firing of a lesbian teacher at Bishop Watterson High School during Holy Week.
O’Grady told Outlook Columbus that the rebuke has shaken neither his Catholic faith nor his belief in marriage equality for LGBT people. He’ll be out of town this weekend to watch his daughter play softball, but he said his family will find a Mass to attend.
“It’s a social justice issue for me,” he said, referring to the Catholic tenet of standing up for people who are poor or oppressed.
“I grew up in the Catholic Church of John Paul II. My entire young adult life was with the pope talking about social justice, doing the right thing. He taught loving everyone, accepting everyone.”
The late pope issued repeated denunciations of same-sex marriage, but O’Grady said he thinks the church will evolve on the issue.
“Throughout history, the Catholic church has been against things it shouldn’t have been against, for things it shouldn’t have been for, and they changed,” he said. “I believe over the course of time, it will envolve.”
Neither Columbus Diocese George Jones nor Bishop Ready High School Principal Celene Seaman responded to Outlook’s requests for comment.
Jones and Seaman ignored calls as well from The Columbus Dispatch, which broke the story Thursday after a Bishop Ready parent told the newspaper that O’Grady failed to show up for the high school’s graduation ceremony last weekend.
The school kept O’Grady’s name on the commencement program, and Seaman told students that the county commissioner wasn’t there because something came up, The Dispatch reported.
Article continues belowO’Grady is a 1982 graduate of Bishop Ready and spoke earlier this school year at his alma mater’s National Honor Society inductions.
He said he thinks the complaint that triggered Campbell’s wrath came from outside the school. The Catholic Times recently published a list of commencement speakers at all Central Ohio high schools, he said.
Former Bishop Watterson physical education teacher Carla Hale also was done in by a complaint to the diocese based on something published in a newspaper.
Hale, who taught at the school for 19 years, listed her partner, Julie, in her mother’s obituary in February. A parent complained after reading the obit in The Dispatch.
Just as people rallied behind Hale and spoke out against Campbell’s order to fire her, O’Grady’s friends and constituents are speaking out for him, too.
“I’ve never met a more family-centered, life-long loyal Catholic in elected office than Commissioner John O’Grady,” said Mike Brown, who used to be the spokesman for Mayor Michael B. Coleman.
“He speaks openly about his upbringing and family in the church, but he’s now been ostracized because he stands up for equality and those who are being discriminated against.”