A church in Charlotte, North Carolina has fired its openly gay music director after he married his longtime partner, the Charlotte Observer reported.

After a 23-year relationship, Steav and Bill Bates-Congdon married last October in New York, one of seven states where gay and lesbian couples can legally wed.

Steav, 61, joined the staff at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in 2004. He was open about his sexual orientation from the start.

After an extended leave of absence, which included a honeymoon trip to Mexico followed by a hospital stay, Steav returned to St. Gabriel on January 19.

Upon his return, Rev. Frank O'Rourke fired Steav in a note, which read: “Employees of St. Gabriel … are expected to live within the moral traditional of the Church … Your civil marriage stands in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church, therefore ending your employment with us, effective today.”

Steav claims that when he informed O'Rourke of his plans in June, the pastor congratulated him but added that he could not give him his blessing.

Several parishioners said Steav had significantly improved the church's music program and were saddened by the loss.

North Carolina voters in May will decide on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state. Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the Diocese of Charlotte, has endorsed the amendment.