An openly gay Mason from Kentucky has been suspended indefinitely from the fraternity after an April 8 Masonic trial found him guilty of "un-masonic conduct," according to a letter from the group's Grand Lodge of Kentucky in Jefferson County.
"It was tantamount to expulsion. I might as well be expelled," said John Wright of Richmond.
Wright stood trial on charges leveled by five Masons from Central Kentucky that he deserted his wife due to his homosexuality and revealed Masonic information that was considered privileged.
An April 11 letter to Wright from Grand Secretary Joseph Conway said a trial committee of Masons found Wright "guilty as charged" and "fixed a penalty of indefinite suspension."
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According to the group's constitution, Wright could have been admonished, reprimanded, suspended or expelled. Wright said he can appeal the decision or apply for reinstatement after one year, though he thinks it's futile given "a very strong anti-gay sentiment" among some in the group.
But, he said, "I don't want to make it sound like the entire fraternity is bad."
Conway has previously declined to comment about the charges and could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Wright, a student at Eastern Kentucky University who also works for a military defense contractor, was Master of the Right Angle Lodge in Winchester from December 2009 until December 2010. The Masons are said to be the world's oldest and largest fraternity.
After Wright told members at Right Angle last year he is gay, members of a lodge in Frankfort tried to change the Kentucky Masons' constitution so openly gay men could not be members.
In October, Masons at a statewide meeting turned down the proposal. But within weeks of the statewide vote, five Masons filed an internal petition accusing Wright of violating the group's constitution by forsaking his belief in God in declaring his homosexuality, by abandoning his wife and by going public with information about the Masons.
Wright provided to the Herald-Leader letters and other documents involving the complaint.
When Wright became a Mason in 2007, he was married. Wright said he and his wife filed for divorce in March 2010 because he realized he was gay.
The complaint that led to the trial said Wright's behavior went against the Masonic constitution because he "violated the sanctity of his marriage" and "deserted her due to his homosexuality."
Another charge alleged Wright revealed "privileged Masonic Communications ... to the non-Masonic world."
Prior to the trial, an investigative committee found probable cause to believe Wright may have revealed privileged Masonic information and may have violated "his oath and obligation" by engaging in other relationships prior to the finalization of his divorce.
The original complaint also alleged Wright had violated the group's constitution because he had "openly forsaken his belief in God ... by refusing to obey the Moral Laws in declaring his homosexuality which the Moral law declares as an abomination to the law of God."
On that allegation, the investigative committee found no probable cause.
Wright said he admitted at the trial he divorced his wife and publicly talked about the fact that some Masons challenged his membership because he was gay. But Wright said he denied disavowing his belief in God, divulging privileged Masonic communications and secrets or violating the sanctity of his marriage by divorcing his wife.
"I do not feel that the sentence was appropriate," Wright said Friday.
The Masons are a worldwide fraternity of men who believe in God and work to help people through their charities, according to the Web site of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky.
In Kentucky, they support homes for the elderly and other causes. There are 400 chapters in the state with about 44,000 members.