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Man says Las Cruces Catholic church won't let him play piano after he got married to man

By Josie Ortegon
Published On: Jan 20 2014 07:45:18 PM CST
Updated On: Jun 14 2014 12:18:42 PM CDT

By ABC-7's Josie Ortegon

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

A gay Las Cruces man is calling out the Roman Catholic Church he served for years in Las Cruces.

Orlando Jimenez was a pianist at Saturday Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary for almost a year.

Prior to that, he served the church his entire life through other activities.

Now he says he is no longer allowed to serve his church because he has gone public about his same-sex marriage.

"It's very hurtful, it's very, very hurtful. I've tried to maintain my position as strong about this,” Jimenez said. “I've tried to remain strong about all of this, but it really took a toll on me. I just never thought they would go this far, that he would go this far."

When Lyn Ellins made the decision to offer marriage licenses to same sex couples in Dona Ana County, Jimenez went and got it and that very day he was on the news.

Jimenez says some of his fellow church members began to complain.

"They didn't think it was right and what kind of message would we be sending to the youth in the parish if they see that I'm in such a visible position and it looks like they're approving of my marriage,” Jimenez said.

Not long after the complaint the Rev. Bill McCann asked him to step down as the church's pianist.

"I agreed to it,” Jimenez said. “I said ‘if that's your feeling then that's fine.’"

But just last week, a family requested to have him to play at their daughter's quinceanera service.

Jimenez says McCann denied that request:

"I had to call Father Bill and ask why, and he said it was in order to be consistent due to the parishioners that did approach him about their concern with my participation in the liturgies with Immaculate Heart of Mary cathedral."

According to Jimenez these services are paid for by families and not the church.

"It's not the church that's hiring me, it's the actual people renting the facility and using the temple that are asking me to come and provide music."

Jimenez says these services are a large part of his income.

"I don't understand how I'm supposed to make a living,” Jimenez said. “Because a lot of requests I get are here at the cathedral, to provide music for quinceaneras and even funerals. Especially if he knows it's a big part of my ministry."

When the New Mexico Supreme Court in Dec. 2013 ruled same-sex marriage was legal within the state, the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces released a statement on its website:

"The bishops of New Mexico recognize the New Mexico Supreme Court as the interpreter of the State Constitution.  The Catholic Church respects and loves the gay and lesbian members of our community. We will continue to promote Catholic teaching of the Biblical definition of marriage to be that of one man and one woman."

Jimenez says he respects the church's decision, but it's left him with many unanswered questions.

"I wonder if I would have done this in secret, if it would have been okay,” Jimenez said.

ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom was unable to get in touch with McCann but Las Cruces Bishop Oscar Cantu released a statement, saying "as this put (Jimenez) at odds with the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality, he met with the rector of the cathedral … it was agreed (Jimenez) would only be involved in supportive roles and not in more public ministry, such as leading the singing."

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