A Ohio man says he was fired for posting pictures from a gay wedding on social media.
Keith Kozak was an outreach minister for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland until last week, when church administrators called him in for a meeting. He assumed it was about a promotion he was up for. Instead, his supervisor and an HR representative brought up “some things” they had seen on his Facebook and Twitter.
That included photos from a friend’s wedding that he and his father attended in September 2017.
And hitting “like” on a picture from a different gay wedding.
“I really wasn’t even thinking about it at the time, that it would be anything detrimental,” Kozak, 39, told News 5 Cleveland. “I never posted anything, that in my opinion, would’ve been controversial in any way.”
The Diocese didn’t see it that way.
“It was a quick meeting,” he recalls. “The very next day, I received a letter that said I was terminated.”
Kozak, who is gay himself, insists he never disclosed his homosexuality to the Diocese. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing it, but I also thought it wasn’t important at the time.” He knew his social media posts had to reflect Catholic teachings but he didn’t feel like his posts violated that. While he insists his faith is still strong, he’s questioning his support for the church.
“It’s a wake-up call for me, it’s a wake-up call that I didn’t really realize the Catholic Church would act like this,” said Kozak (above right).
But a spokesperson for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission told News 5 the Diocese is likely protected by “ministerial exception,” which bars clergy from bringing claims under federal discrimination laws.
In a statement the Diocese said it does not comment on personnel decisions but was confident Kozak’s termination was appropriate.
Ironically the incident came just days before Cuyahoga County, of which Cleveland is the county seat, voted to extend non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. On Tuesday, an ordinance sponsored by County Executive Armond Budish passed 8-3, providing LGBTQ people with equal access in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Violators can be forced to pay fines and attorney fees.
“It’s a very small step toward creating a county, a community, in which everyone, including LGBT persons, are treated equally and fairly,” said Susan Becker of the ACLU of Ohio. “[Now] everyone, including LGBT people, can go to work, rent an apartment, go grocery shopping… without worry about being treating unfairly or being denied services.”