Court gives boost to for­mer Catholic mu­sic di­rec­tor fired af­ter same-sex wed­ding

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY STE­FANO ES­POS­ITO, STAFF RE­PORTER ses­pos­ito@suntimes.com | @sle­spos­ito

An ap­peals court has re­in­stated the claim of a for­mer Calumet City church mu­sic di­rec­tor who sued af­ter say­ing he was sub­jected to a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment be­cause he is gay.

“He was over­joyed,” said Kristina Buchthal Alkass, the at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents the for­mer mu­sic di­rec­tor, San­dor Demkovich. “This is not an easy fight for any­one. Be­ing scru­ti­nized in the courts is tough in any kind of case. When you get down to some­one’s civil rights and their sex­u­al­ity, it’s tougher than ever.”

Demkovich, who lives in Whit­ing, In­di­ana, was hired as the mu­sic di­rec­tor at St. An­drew the Apos­tle Parish in Calumet City in 2012. Demkovich claims his su­per­vi­sor, Pas­tor Jacek Dada, sub­jected him to re­lent­less ha­rass­ment, in part, be­cause of his sexual ori­en­ta­tion. In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Demkovich said he was asked to re­sign when it came to light he’d mar­ried his long-term part­ner, Frank Hat­tula — a union Dada said was against church teach­ings. When Demkovich re­fused to quit, he was fired.

Demkovich sued both the parish and the Arch­dio­cese of Chicago. U.S. District Court Judge Ed­mond Chang pre­vi­ously dis­missed the sexual ha­rass­ment claim. But the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Seventh Circuit ruled while the First Amend­ment es­sen­tially gives re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions the free­dom to hire and fire whom they please, those same or­ga­ni­za­tions must main­tain a work­place free from ha­rass­ment.

The arch­dio­cese de­clined to com­ment on the ap­peals court rul­ing. Dada could not be reached for com­ment.

Demkovich also was not avail­able. Alkass said her client has not worked for a church since his fir­ing; he is em­ployed as a math teacher.

Demkovich told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2016 that he and his part­ner had be­come part of the Epis­co­pal church, a place where they felt ac­cepted.

“We’re part­ners in this. It’s our faith, and our bap­tism and un­for­tu­nately we have to go now where we are wel­comed. We are not wel­come in the Ro­man Catholic Church,” Demkovich said.

PRO­VIDED

San­dor Demkovich (right) and his part­ner, Frank Hat­tula.

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