Gay alum’s commencement speech invite withdrawn

An aspiring actor and graduate of a Michigan Catholic school will not be allowed to speak at next month’s senior class commencement because he is openly gay.

Dominic Sheahan-Stahl had been invited to speak at Sacred Heart Academy’s graduation ceremony on May 20, but the invitation was withdrawn, the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun and The Saginaw News reported.

Sheahan-Stahl is a 1998 graduate of the school in Mount Pleasant who now lives in New York City. His youngest brother is in this year’s graduating class.

Principal Denny Starnes told students, parents and staff at an assembly late last week that he will abide by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw’s ruling but supports Sheahan-Stahl.

“The church is not sharing my position on this issue,” said Starnes, who added he is neighbors with Sheahan-Stahl’s family. “How can I not support this young man to come and speak to this class?”

But the diocese later said in a statement that the invitation to speak and its rescinding “were done independently” of the Catholic Schools office or the office of the bishop.

“The Catholic Church is very clear in her teaching, that men and women who have homosexual tendencies must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” Bishop Joseph Cistone said. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Sheahan-Stahl, who joined the school assembly via Skype, said he still will attend the commencement.

“Why am I any different just because of who I love?” he said. “I am a homosexual man, and I am proud of it.”

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