By Michael Hill
When Kate Drumgoole married Jaclyn Vanore in 2014, she had no reason to share the marital bliss with her employer, Paramus Catholic High School, as she told WABC.
“I believe that you need to keep your private life private, especially when you work with adolescents. So I never brought it the work place,” Drumgoole said.
But early this year, someone posted a picture on Facebook and Paramus Catholic fired Drumgoole as dean of guidance counseling and girl’s head basketball coach. She sued. In court, the attorney for the Newark Arch Diocese was direct about why the school fired Drumgoole.
“There’s no denying the fact that Miss Drumgoole has engaged in a lifestyle and a marriage that is inconsistent with the tenets of the Catholic faith,” said Christopher Westrick.
The school says it had a First Amendment religious right to fire Drumgoole, but her attorneys argue Drumgoole was not in a ministerial or teaching position and her firing violates the law.
“She was nothing other than an exemplary and a role model. This is absolutely disgusting,” attorney Larry Kleiner said.
Employment law does not allow employers to fire workers because of race, creed, color, sexual orientation and more.
“In this case we’re dealing with not just any employer, but with a religious institution and that just changes the whole legal dynamic,”said Rutgers University Law Professor Perry Dane.
Dane says even though the U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light to same sex marriage in America last year, state and federal laws still give protections to religious organizations to hire and fire.
“Churches get to govern themselves and church schools. It’s really central parts of a church’s communal life are included in that institutional protection,” Dane said.
The professor says in this clash of civil rights, first amendment, anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws, he finds irony.
“What has always struck me as really, really interesting and poignant in these cases is that you have both sides essentially saying leave us alone, right?” he said.
“Jackie and I both felt that we needed to create awareness that this is still happening in 2016 and that nobody really deserves to be treated this way,” Drumgoole said.
Drumgoole wants the Bergen judge to allow her lawsuit to go forward for discovery and ultimately damages. In a case many are watching and predicting will not be the end of the legal battles over same-sex marriage, lifestyles and employment.