Fired Lesbian Educator Sues New Jersey Catholic High School

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Kate Drumgoole and her wife, Jaclyn Vanore

A lesbian educator is suing a Catholic high school because earlier this year the school fired her for entering a same-gender marriage.

In January, Kate Drumgoole was fired by Paramus Catholic High School, New Jersey, reported ABC 7where she headed the guidance department and coached women’s basketball.  She was a longtime employee and graduated from the school herself.

Drumgoole said she and her wife, Jaclyn Vanore, “did nothing but fall in love with each other and exercise our rights” by getting married two years ago. She said she believes that when working with adolescents, “you need to keep your private life private . . . so I never brought it to the workplace.” She said that after photos of the couple were posted online against the couple’s objections, administrators called Drumgoole in during a snow day and fired her.

Particularly troubling is the manner by which those photos became public. The North Jersey Reporter explained that, in anger, Vanore’s sister  sent photos of the couple to school administrators.

The lawsuit charges not only the school itself, but its president, James P. Vail, and the Archdiocese of Newark, for non-discrimination violations and “intentionally inflicted emotional distress,” reported Crux.

Drumgoole claims she was discriminated against in part because other employees have not been fired for failing to abide by church teaching in their private lives. She noted there are Paramus Catholic employees who “are divorced, at least one has a child out of wedlock, various employees cohabit with members of the opposite sex, at least one other teacher is gay, and nude photographs of another teacher have been circulated online.”

The lawsuit may hinge upon whether the Catholic school is exempted from state non-discrimination law because it is a religious institution. Christopher Westrick, a lawyer for Paramus Catholic, argued for such an exemption in court. But Drumgoole’s lawyer, Eric Kleiner, pushed back and noted her positions at the school were not religious in nature.

ABC 7 reported on Drumgoole’s exemplary work record:

“As a guidance counselor, she set up tutoring for struggling students, provided counseling on academics and preparing for college, ensured that learning-disabled received help and intervened in bullying incidents. But her role became more administrative after promotions in 2013 and 2014, such as running department meetings and organizing award ceremonies.”

Kleiner said Drumgoole was “loved by her students, loved by her peers,” and his law partner Lawrence Kleiner added:

” ‘I don’t think there could be any doubt that anyone from Paramus Catholic could say that she was anything other than an exemplary role model. . .This is absolutely disgusting, in this day and age.’ “

Many in the Paramus Catholic community are unsettled by the firing. Anna Shea, a parent whose daughter was coached by Drumgoole, said it was “extremely jarring for the children. . .When the team took the floor you could see they were extremely upset.” Drumgoole has found a temporary position at a local public school for the coming year, but she is yet unsure what impact the firing will have on her career. A  court ruling on whether the case will proceed is expected this week.

Drumgoole adds to the growing list of more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in recent years because of LGBT-related employment disputes. Each time these firings and resignations occur, they do tremendous damage, especially true when they occur at schools since young people are impacted.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

15 thoughts on “Fired Lesbian Educator Sues New Jersey Catholic High School

  1. John Hilgeman August 22, 2016 / 1:09 am

    I don’t know what any of these firings have to do with Jesus and his life and message. There is something seriously wrong with a church whose leaders preach a God of love, and then punish their employees for committing themselves to a life of love with another person. It’s not as though their relationships are harming anyone.

    • Friends August 22, 2016 / 5:51 am

      Amen, John. The closest analogy I can find is to the situation — not too many years ago — when African Americans were forced to ride at the back of public transportation vehicles, to use separate segregated rest room facilities, and to drink from separate water fountains. The kind of hateful discrimination we’re seeing here is categorically unjustifiable. It simply has got to stop — and hopefully our courts of law will finally and definitively force it to stop.

      • John Hilgeman August 22, 2016 / 1:03 pm

        Thanks. When I was at an African American parish thirty years ago, we had a listening session during which people shared painful experiences they had had with the Church. Some parishioners related the pain of being sent to the choir loft or back of the church because of the color of their skin. I can still remember when religious orders refused admittance to African Americans. And of course not too many years before then, Catholic schools were segregated.

  2. Tim MacGeorge August 22, 2016 / 6:40 am

    Just a minor pet peeve, but as a high school coach, she coached girls basketball, not “women’s basketball. Teenagers in early-mid adolescence are not adults, so why refer to them as such? Have the words “girls” and “boys” somehow become taboo or non-pc? If we wish our perspectives about issues related to sex, gender, orientation, and identity to be listened to, then our language about these issues must be accurate — including an accurate reflection of the words we use vis-a-vis stages of human development.

  3. Thomas August 22, 2016 / 7:43 am

    Firing an employee who has demonstrated skill, compassion and excellence simply because of how God made them is profoundly stupid. The lack of Christianity involved here is telling.

    • Jim McCrea August 22, 2016 / 3:04 pm

      I hope she wins a HUGE settlement! The one thing that gets the attention of Catholic institutions is $$$. Only by really hurting this school’s pocketbook will it have any effect.

      More and more I am getting totally disgusted by the antics of this denomination. It is rapidly exhibiting the behavior of other cults.

  4. Paula Mattras August 22, 2016 / 7:59 am

    Her evaluations were stellar, reflecting the essence of her service to the school and to her students. How many of these students will now be turned away from our religion as a result? We need not worry about others doing the damage – it comes from within. God help us.

  5. Wilhelm Wonka August 22, 2016 / 8:53 am

    Here we go again. Another moral Groundhog Day on the hazard of being an LGBT employee of Catholic institutions. And what has been achieved, apart from a predictable and ineffectual outcome? It hasn’t changed the marital status of a conscientious and much-loved educator: Kate Drumgoole will remain in a same-gender relationship with Jaclyn Vanore. So again, what has been achieved? Injustice, resentment, legal action…and a heap of negative publicity for Catholic institutions. What an own goal!

    Isn’t there anyone among the American Catholic hierarchy with the moral vision to try something new? Something that might bring about conciliation and unity rather than the disunity of Pharisaical judgement and exclusion?

  6. Bishop Carlos A Florido, osf August 22, 2016 / 10:14 am

    It is disappointing that some catholic schools are so out of touch with reality!

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