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 7, where 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