A federal judge, on July 29, rejected a motion by the Chicago Archdiocese to dismiss discrimination charges filed this past March by Colin Collette.
Colette was dismissed from his position at as Music Director at Holy Family parish in Inverness in 2014, shortly after he announced his engagement to his longtime partner, William Nifong, via social media. The new ruling allows Collette to proceed with the charges.
"We have believed all along that Colin has an actionable claim and we are extremely pleased with the decision of the court today," said Collette's attorney, Kerry Lavelle, in a statement. "There remains a long road ahead but this validates our position that the suit merits review by the court."
Collette's suit maintains that his dismissal for announcing his engagement violated federal, state and county laws. He asks for reinstatement, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as damages for the alleged discrimination.
Collette is claiming sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, sex, sexual and marital status discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act, and sex, sexual and marital status discrimination under the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance. A key question in the suit may be whether Collette's role was classified as either staff or clergy at Holy Family; that classification becomes a determinant for which sets of discrimination rules applied to his employment. He had been barred from employment at other Catholic churches as well.
The Archdiocese, in Nov. 2015, rejected the possibility of mediation in the case.
Collette has not spoken to media in recent months but he told Windy City Times shortly after filing the federal suit, "My hope is that we can come to some sort of agreement to get me back in church work. That has been my hope all along."