Former music director of Chicago parish sues over anti-gay discrimination

Colin Collette

Colin Collette, the former music director at Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness, Ill., speaks with reporters in Rolling Meadows, Ill., on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, after he filed human rights complaints after being fired earlier this year following his engagement to his same-sex partner. The complaints allege the church discriminated against him based on his sex, sexual orientation and marital status. Richard A. Chapman, AP

Colin ColletteRichard A. Chapman, AP

Colin Collette, the former music director at Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness, Ill., speaks with reporters in Rolling Meadows, Ill., on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, after he filed human rights complaints after being fired earlier this year following his engagement to his same-sex partner. The complaints allege the church discriminated against him based on his sex, sexual orientation and marital status.

CHICAGO — The longtime music director of a suburban Chicago Catholic parish has filed human rights complaints after he was fired earlier this year following his engagement to his same-sex partner.

Colin Collette, who worked at Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness for 17 years, filed the complaints Thursday with the Chicago division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. Collette says Pastor Terry Keehan asked him to resign in July and was fired after refusing to do so.

The complaints allege the church discriminated against him based on his sex, sexual orientation and marital status. The attorneys representing Collette believe this is a ground-breaking case that could eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although Collette regrets having to take a legal route, he says he’s doing it because he wants to be reinstated as the music and worship director at either Holy Family or another parish.

“My goal is not just to continue a career in the community that I love,” he said. “Directing both worship and the music ministry, it is truly my vocation. It is who I am, and 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.”

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Kerry Lavelle, one of Collette’s lawyers, said his client had to file the complaints after several unfruitful discussions, including one with former archbishop Cardinal Francis George. Collette has since reached out to new Archbishop Blase Cupich, the attorney said.

“We firmly believe Mr. Collette is being discriminated against based on his sexual orientation and his desire to enter into a legal same-sex marriage,” Lavelle said.

The Archdiocese of Chicago didn’t comment, saying it hadn’t seen the complaints.

Holy Family churchgoers say the issue has divided the parish. Some people participate in a support group for Collette, called “All Are Welcome,” while others are happy he’s gone, parishioner Dolores Siok said.

“My pursuit now is about change and justice,” Collette said.

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