A local politician says he was asked to step aside as the commencement speaker at a Catholic high school in Columbus because he has been an advocate for same-sex marriage rights.
Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady offered the explanation yesterday after a parent told The Dispatch he had failed to show up at Saturday’s graduation at Bishop Ready High School on the Hilltop.
O’Grady, a 1982 Ready graduate, said Principal Celene Seamen asked him to give the speech about two months ago, but he was told last week that he would not be needed. He said he was told that the decision came from Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell and was based on the commissioner’s co-chairmanship of the Freedom to Marry initiative, which supports overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.
O’Grady was asked to serve on the initiative more than a year ago, and his political views on gay marriage have been public for much longer.
He said he was disheartened because he had been looking forward to talking to the graduates, many of whom were children of students with whom he had attended the school more than 30 years ago.
“I am sad that I wasn’t able to give a commencement speech at my alma mater,” O’Grady said. “I was very much looking forward to it.”
Seamen and diocesan spokesman George Jones did not respond to repeated calls and emails seeking comment.
The decision to revoke O’Grady’s invitation came less than three months after the diocese fired a gay physical-education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Clintonville. The firing came after the teacher, Carla Hale, had the name of her partner published in a newspaper obituary.
The Catholic Church considers any sex outside marriage between one man and one woman to be immoral. Regarding the Hale matter, Campbell has said it is his responsibility to maintain the Catholic identity of the institutions under his purview.
From his biography:
Mr. O’Grady is an active supporter of programs that promote hands-on educational experiences for young people. He is an honorary board member of Kid’s Voting, Central Ohio. He has also partnered with the Columbus City Schools to participate in mentoring programs including the Guest Readers program, Principal for a Day, and Groundhog Job Shadow Day.
Mr. O’Grady is the founder of the Hearts Over Clubs Charity Fund, a non-profit organization that benefits the families of heart disease victims. He is a lifelong member of the Catholic Church, and serves as a lector at St. Brendan the Navigator Church.