Catholic Students Rally To Save Gay Vice Principal’s Job
The cafeteria at Eastside Catholic High School in Washington state was filled with hundreds of students last week, as the student body came together to publicly vocalize their disapproval for what they referred to as the forced resignation of the school’s vice principal, Mark Zmuda, after rumors began to circulate he married his same-sex partner in July.
Although Zmuda, 38, has been married since July, he was fired or forced to resign a few weeks ago, when school officials learned of his same-sex marriage. While Zmuda’s sexual orientation did not affect his job performance, nor was it common knowledge, the school said that they had to fire the educator in keeping with Catholic teaching.
Zmuda joined Eastside about a year-and-a-half ago, during which time he signed a contract in which he promised to uphold the teachings of the church. Since same-sex marriage is a violation of church teachings, despite acceptance of an LGBT lifestyle from many Catholic youth and even Pope Francis, Zmuda “resigned,” said Mike Patterson — an attorney for the Archdiocese of Seattle and for Eastside Catholic.
“It was just one of those situations where he knew … that he needed to comport with the [teachings] of the church, and his same-sex marriage was not comporting with that,” Patterson said, adding that it is Zmuda’s marriage, not being gay, that is the reason he can no longer work for the school.
“He’s a great administrator,” Patterson said. “We fully support him. We’re going to give him glowing reference letters, all that sort of thing. But Eastside Catholic doesn’t have the power to change that law.”
But students such as freshman Sophia Cerino, who was at a rally for Zmuda, argue that just because the church has not accepted gay marriage, doesn’t mean LGBT persons should be treated any differently in the workplace. And according to the students, many didn’t even know he was gay until Zmuda spoke at a protest the students held last week.
After publicly acknowledging he was gay, Zmuda told the students he hopes that “no matter what happens to me and to the school, that all of you guys will seek a career and work very hard, find the love of your life, hopefully one day get married as well. At the same time, no matter what happens, strive to do your best.”
Despite several protests, rallies and even a petition to get Zmuda his job back, it’s unlikely the administrator will return to Eastside, since the order to fire him came directly from the Archdiocese of Seattle. Lawyers for the church also maintain that by marrying his partner, Zmuda broke his employment contract, which is why they are referring to Zmuda’s departure as a resignation instead of a termination.
Still, many gay-rights advocates haven’t slowed in their efforts or hushed their condemnation ofr Zmuda’s termination, arguing that “At a moment when Pope Francis is urging the Catholic hierarchy to put aside judgment … it’s shameful that this school and others are ignoring that hopeful message in favor of explicit and baseless discrimination,” said Charles Joughin, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.
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