Michael Griffin, a language teacher and alum of Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, was fired from the school after 12 years of teaching for applying for a marriage license with his partner of 12 years, Vincent Giannetto.
Holy Ghost is an all-boy high school with about 475 students and a faculty of about 50.
Griffin, 35, who lives with Giannetto in Maple Shade, N.J., planned to go with his partner to apply for a marriage license last Friday. He emailed the school’s principal, Jeff Danilak, to let him know he would be late — but the response took him by surprise.
That afternoon, Griffin was called into Danilak’s office, along with school president the Rev. James P. McCloskey, and was told he would be fired if he went through with the marriage.
According to the school handbook, employees must abide by the rules and lifestyle of the Roman Catholic Church, which has traditionally been against same-sex marriage.
There is no statewide law prohibiting workplace discrimination against LGBT people in Pennsylvania, nor is there a federal law; however, most nondiscrimination laws include exemptions for religious institutions.
Griffin told PGN the school was previously aware of his sexual orientation and his relationship.
“The school knew I was gay,” he said. “I’ve brought him to school events and talked about him in the faculty room. I’ve had people from the school at my house.”
Griffin said the school did not offer him any severance pay and he has not had any further conversations with the administration.
He said he is exploring his legal options.
“I don’t know if what they did is legal but I am going to look into it.”
With teaching certifications in two languages and administrative degrees, he said he is not “too worried” about finding another position.
In the meantime, he said he hopes his situation can shed light on the broader issue of LGBT workplace discrimination.
“I want to bring awareness to the fact that you can still be fired for being gay — religious institution or not — in Pennsylvania,” he said. “At the very least, I am bringing awareness that we still face this in 2013. We think the Northeast and Philly is an inclusive area, so you don’t think of something like that happening around here.”
Since his firing, Griffin has gotten emails, texts and calls from former colleagues, students and alumni, as well as from strangers.
Griffin initially posted about the firing on Facebook, a friend shared the story and it went viral.
“All I wanted to do was have a little wedding. That’s the irony of it: We wanted something small and low-key and here it is, national news.”