50 years after the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 that created the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement across the country, the United States has made significant progress for queer people in the form of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and legalizing as well as recognizing same-sex marriages and civil unions. However, despite these gains, the fight for the civil rights of the LGBTQIA+ community continues when combating discrimination and outlawing conversion therapy for minors. One person, a former educator, exemplifies issues many in the community continue to face.
Matt Luttringer, a native Californian, was the principal of his local high school alma mater, Notre Dame High School, a private Catholic High School in Riverside, California that is under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, for eight years between 2011 and 2019 as well as an educator for about 20 years since 1998. In April 2019, his personal life and professional career would change forever. Luttringer, who is 44 years old, claims that he was fired by the high school because he was gay. However, the school and the diocese have recently stated that the termination was for financial or budgetary reasons.
“I think what was going through my mind and still does go through my mind is a shock, disappointment, and hurt,” Luttringer told CMN in an email interview. “I’ve been lucky enough not to have been discriminated too much in my life, however, the most egregious discrimination has happened in the hands of leaders of our diocese and the Catholic church.” Luttringer also believes that the firing could have been further intentional because he said that the recently appointed superintendent of the schools for the Diocese of San Bernardino, Dr. Samuel Torres, knew he was gay.
Luttringer, who has so far raised more than $1,800 out of his $2,500 goal for legal fees to eventually sue the Diocese of San Bernardino for suspected wrongful termination, is not the only educator in private religious education facing civil rights hurdles. In July 2019, an Indiana teacher who was terminated from a local Indianapolis Catholic school for being in a same-sex relationship reached a legal settlement with the school as well as its diocese.
Furthermore, despite states such as California prohibiting discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, religious and or spiritual organizations are mostly exempt from civil rights protection laws. While the Supreme Court takes up several cases involving a conflict between anti-discrimination efforts and religious freedoms and liberties, Luttringer’s case represents a prolonged path to resolve these particular issues.
“Be true to your self. Be kind, be caring, however, stay on guard and protect yourself I was way too trusting and way too loving to my own disadvantage,” Luttringer said when asked about giving advice for those encountering discrimination. “It is important that you know that there are people out there who genuinely hate and are unjust.”
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