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Fired gay water polo coach still raising money for high school team

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Mitch Stein (Patch.com photo)

Last fall, we wrote about Mitch Stein, an openly gay man who was fired as a junior varsity water polo coach after old pictures surfaced of him in drag and of him playfully eating a corn dog. Stein is now suing Charter Oak High School in Covina, Calif. for " 'animus toward gay and lesbian employees' and of holding him to a different standard because he is gay."

The Los Angeles Times profiled the case and what is striking is how much support Stein has and quoting others saying the school administration has a history of homophobia. Despite being fired but because of his love of the team, Stein has continued to raise money for the program.

He has remained a fixture at the school despite being stripped of his title. Still referred to as "coach" by students, he coordinated a beach clean-up that netted $3,500 in corporate donations, shopped for items for the snack bar, hauled tubs of nacho cheese to the matches and manned the refreshments station. The $900 he made as a summer coach was donated back to the team.

Parents voted him in unanimously as president-elect of the aquatics booster board.

The photos were given to the school administration anonymously but they sound rather innocuous.

Stein had posted the photos online several years earlier and never worried that they might cause problems. The corn dog photo had been a joke. The drag queens had an act in a weekly variety show he used to produce at a gay bar in Long Beach. One night they gathered around Stein, who made the devil horns sign with one hand and grinned as the camera flashed.

"I just didn't feel there was anything to hide," said Stein, who made his pages private only in the hopes of being reinstated. The photos in question merely represented gay culture, he argued.

One parent, who has two sons on the water polo team and says he does not approve of homosexuality, said he saw nothing wrong with the photos and wants Stein to have his job back. Stein has a secure career as a TV producer and says he brought the suit to get his coaching job back and to help other gay people who have more to lose by speaking out.