A same-sex marriage has reportedly resulted in the forced resignation of a 38-year-old high school vice principal and swim coach.
The well-liked administrator, Mark Zmuda, was reportedly forced to resign from Eastside Catholic High School outside of Seattle last month, shortly after school officials learned that he had married his long term male partner earlier in the year and confronted him about his marriage. Same-sex marriage is legal under the laws of the state of Washington.
Zmuda’s resignation has led to widespread shows of support among many of Zmuda’s former students. His exodus has sparked protests among a number of them as well. On the day of his resignation, approximately 400 of the school’s 950 students staged a sit-in at the high school to demonstrate their disagreement with the school’s reported action.
At that time Zmuda expressed his immense gratitude toward his student supporters. He acknowledged that he is, in fact, gay, and that he did marry his partner over the summer. He further remarked that his sexual orientation is only a small part of who he is and that as an educator he wished all of them success in the future.
Several weeks later, 80 people staged a demonstration related to the school’s personnel decision outside the local archdiocese’s headquarters in Seattle. An organizer of the event outside the local archdiocese said “We want to make sure that no more teachers get fired from their job because they got married.” Demonstrators held a variety of signs with slogans both in support of Zmuda and in opposition to the Catholic Church’s official position against same-sex marriage.
The school has seen backlash in other ways as well. Alumni have commented that they are “ashamed” of the school and have also indicated that they will never again make financial contributions to Eastside.
Notably neither Zmuda nor any representatives from the archdiocese attended the demonstration.
The school’s principal, Polly Skinner, reportedly stated in an email that Zmuda’s “dismissal” was based on the authority of the archdiocese over the school. She further stated that while she was “saddened” by the decision, the school is obligated to comply with the teachings of the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage. Further, the school claims, Zmuda’s same-sex marriage violates the terms of his employment contract, wherein he agreed to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church. Counsel for the school denies that Zmuda was forced to resign.
Same-sex marriage has become a hotly contested social issue within the Catholic Church in recent years. Both Zmuda and a former student of Eastside commented in separate statements that they believe larger numbers of young Catholics are becoming more accepting of the idea of same-sex marriage.
The leader of the Church, Pope Francis himself, sparked debate about the direction the Church may be heading with regard to its teachings on same-sex marriage, when he famously stated “If someone is gay…who am I to judge?” last summer. The statement was made in response to a question about the ordaining of gay priests. More recently, the pontiff has suggested that children of gay couples be treated by the Church in an accepting manner as well, by saying “We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them.”
By Michele Wessel