Mark Zmuda was the vice principal at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, just outside of Seattle. I say ‘was’ because Zmuda was terminated for marrying his same-sex partner and in doing so he is said to have violated both Catholic teachings and a contract he signed when hired by the school.
This is not news, really; this has been happening at Catholic schools everywhere, where gay employees have been fired for getting married or just getting engaged. But what’s different about this time is the reaction of the student body at Eastside.
They walked out of class; and began using social media — Twitter and Facebook — to air their displeasure at Zmuda’s firing to other Catholic schools in the area, whose students also walked out of class in solidarity.
But before we get to that, let’s get to some discrepancies in the story.
Mike Patterson, an attorney for Eastside Catholic, said the process that led to Zmuda’s “departure” began about two weeks ago when the school became aware that he had legally married his partner over the summer. But was it a departure? Well, Mike Patterson says Zmuda resigned, but a letter sent from the school to parents says Zmuda was terminated because he violated his contract.
“He resigned,” Patterson now says, “I just spoke with him within the last two hours. He agrees he resigned.”
But, if he resigned, why did Eastside Catholic president Sister Mary Tracy, who discussed the issue with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, say she met with Patterson and Zmuda in a cordial meeting where it was decided he would leave the school. And then why Tracy report to other school staff of Zmuda’s termination? That doesn’t sound like resignation, unless they mean a forced resignation.
“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.”—Mike Patterson
Patterson added that it was Zmuda’s same-sex marriage, not the fact that he is gay, was the reason he cannot work for the school, but um, yeah, if he wasn’t gay then his marriage wouldn’t be same-sex, now would it. I love this bassackward logic of the Catholic Church. It’s not because he’s gay, it’s because he acted in a gay manner doing something he is legally entitled to do in the state of Washington.
But enough of that; fired or resigned, Mark Zmuda is out of a job because he got married, and when Sister Tracy broke the news at a faculty meeting it spread quickly though the student body. And that’s the good news, for equality, and perhaps the bad news for the Catholic Church.
Christian Leider, a Senior, said he found out on Twitter: “The students were pretty upset about that so we all came together and rebelled against it. Once one person found out it went on Twitter and then everyone found out.”
He and others started rounding up students for a sit-in at the school common area and then they marched up a hill to the main campus to show their support for Zmuda to the media gathered there.
“We did not know he was gay before today. He’s always looking out for the best in everyone and he always wants everyone to do their best.”—Christian Leider
Sophia Cerino, a freshman at Eastside Catholic, said most students support marriage equality:
“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the church has. We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing — that we should all be treated equal.”
When the students were gathered on the street, Zmuda spoke about what happened:
“He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”
Grow up, get a job and find true love.
I think someone should teach the ‘Grow up and find true love’ lesson to the Catholic Church.