Charter Oak High School fired an openly gay water polo coach, Mitch Stein, after receiving an anonymous complaint about "inappropriate" photos of Stein pulled from his Facebook page. No, these weren't photos of Stein doing anything illegal. And no, these weren't lewd or compromising photos by any means. What do these "scandalous" photos show? According to reports in sgvtribune.com, Stein was captured on film: (1) eating a corn dog at the LA County Fair; and (2) posing with a group of men dressed in drag.
Yet according to Stein, the school told him he wasn't fired for being gay. And attorneys for the school district explained, "[i]t is inappropriate for a coach or a teacher to publicly post on a website readily accessible to his students material with sexual content of any nature." Sexual content? It's troubling to think about what the future will bring for favorites like bananas, sausages, and, perhaps, ice cream cones.
While the media had plenty of fun posting photographs of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry eating corn dogs, no one suggested that these images warranted their removal from public office. And why should they?
The key difference—Stein is gay and he coaches school children. So apparently to this school's administration, eating a corn dog and posing with drag queens poses a threat to the children. No matter how the school spins this issue, the reality is clear. The school fired Stein for being openly gay.
Discrimination against an employee, like Stein, based on sexual orientation is illegal under state and federal law. Where, as here, the employer takes an adverse employment action because an employee is (or is thought to be) gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or transgender, that employer faces civil liability. In addition, California law also protects employees from workplace harassment due to sexual orientation, such as threats, abusive behavior or repeated, offensive jokes related to their sexual orientation.