A growing number of people are rallying behind a Paramus Catholic faculty member who was fired after the school learned she was in a same-sex marriage. Among her supporters is a Catholic priest who was also suspended for supporting gay rights. The faculty member at the center of the controversy has since filed a lawsuit against the Catholic high school that fired her, the Archdiocese of Newark, and the school’s president, claiming she was unlawfully discriminated against for being gay.
The plaintiff started working at the private coed school as an assistant basketball coach in 2005. She was hired as a guidance counselor in 2010 after earning her master’s degree in social work from New York University. By 2015, she had earned the position of dean of guidance and was named head coach of the girls’ basketball team. Despite her numerous successes at the school, she was fired this past January, four days after photos of her 2014 wedding to her same-sex partner emerged on Facebook.
The First Amendment and Anti-Discrimination Laws Clash
Although New Jersey state law offers protections for LGBT workers, the archdiocese has argued that their actions are covered by the First Amendment separation of church and state. They also pointed to a contract the woman signed agreeing to abide by Roman Catholic tenets that include the idea that only heterosexual couples should be allowed to marry.
The plaintiff insists she was singled out, offering examples of other faculty members who are divorced or otherwise living in violation of Catholic beliefs. The defendants moved to dismiss the case at the outset, but Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia ruled that discovery is needed to examine whether the plaintiff worked in a ministerial capacity and whether the dispute is secular or ecclesiastical.
Recently, a public rally was held in Stevens Park in Hoboken in support of the priest who was relieved of his duties at Sts. Peter and Paul Church after he expressed support for the fired faculty member. Many others have also joined in her cause, including more than 400 Paramus Catholic parents and alumni who signed an open letter to school officials expressing their outrage over the firing.
Cherry Hill LGBT Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Advocate for LGBT Workers’ Right to Equal Employment
Cherry Hill employment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. are dedicated to protecting workers from unlawful discrimination and retaliation. If you have been subject to an adverse employment action because of your LGBT status, contact us online or call our Marlton, New Jersey offices at 856-985-9800 or our Red Bank offices at 732-842-6500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our seasoned Cherry Hill LGBT lawyers.