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Glendora School Teacher Says He Was Fired for Marrying His Gay Parnter

Former English teacher Kenneth Bencomo sued St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

A former Catholic high school teacher who says he was stripped of his job for marrying his gay partner soon after same-sex marriage was made legal in California is suing his former employer.

Former English teacher Kenneth Bencomo sued St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. He alleges wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract.

The firing violates the constitutionally protected right of a person to marry and to engage in political activities, including political speech, the lawsuit states. Bencomo wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.  

A St. Lucy's representative did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment today.  

Bencomo and his partner, Christopher Persky, met in April 2003, the suit states. They were among a wave of same-sex couples who married after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June cleared the way for gay weddings to resume in California for the first time since 2008. He was fired in July, less than two weeks after marrying Persky.

Bencomo began working at the Glendora school in 1998, the suit states.

"At that time, and at all times thereafter, Bencomo's sexual orientation was common knowledge among many of the students, faculty members and the administration of St. Lucy's," the suit states.

Bencomo taught studio art, dance, English and yearbook classes, the suit states.

Persky regularly attended St. Lucy's events with Bencomo, the suit states.

News of Bencomo's July 1 wedding appeared in a local newspaper, and an administrator told him he was being fired, even though she considered him an "exceptional" teacher, the suit states.

Bencomo, who thought the administrator wanted to discuss plans for the coming school year, was "utterly shocked and unprepared for the news that he was being terminated after more than 15 years at St. Lucy's," the suit states.

Bencomo, 45, broke down in tears before leaving the meeting, according to the complaint. His termination drew an "immediate outpouring of support from countless individuals, including current and former students of St. Lucy's," the suit states.

Bencomo believes that, in the face of the public backlash after his firing, the administrator told other faculty members he resigned, the suit states.

Bencomo was raised Catholic and graduated from Damien High School, a Catholic all-male school in La Verne.

—City News Service
Slim Jim March 16, 2014 at 04:18 PM
The law is in the private school corner here. The school will win. Period.
Janet March 16, 2014 at 05:27 PM
Private doesn't matter. All employers both public and private must comply with the law and included in that are rules against discrimination. California law goes beyond Federal and includes sexual orientation. Most likely this will result in an out of court settlement.
Slim Jim March 16, 2014 at 06:19 PM
I am reminded of the coach recently who posted pictures online that his district found objectionable. He is gay. He lost his job and case. That was a public school.It's far easier to discriminate in a private school and get away with it.

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