Seattle students protest gay Catholic school teacher's resignation

Reuters
Eastside Catholic High School students are pictured during a rally in support of the school's former Vice Principal Mark Zmuda at the Archdiocese of Seattle chancery building in Seattle, Washington
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Eastside Catholic High School students are pictured during a rally in support of the school's former …

By Brandon Lowrey

(Reuters) - Students held a second day of protests in a Seattle suburb on Friday after a Catholic high school asked a popular administrator and coach to resign because he married his same-sex partner.

Students at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, Washington, also waged an online campaign urging the church to retreat from its opposition to same-sex marriage, after learning that vice principal and head swim coach Mark Zmuda was asked to resign.

"When it comes down to it, it's just human rights," said Bradley Strode, 17, Eastside's senior class president. "This is what Christ would want."

The dismissal at the school is the latest in a series of incidents to erupt nationwide at Catholic schools over gay and lesbian teachers, often creating tension between younger, more liberal students and the orthodoxy of the church.

Ken Bencomo, a teacher at a Catholic school in Southern California, was fired in July after he married his same-sex partner. Earlier this month, Michael Griffin, a Catholic school teacher in Pennsylvania, told the Philadelphia Inquirer and ABC local affiliate WPVI that he was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his same-sex partner.

Students at the Washington state school, where an online petition organized by Strode garnered 17,000 signatures, said Zmuda was a well-liked teacher who often engaged student groups to make the school a better place.

Zmuda would stay behind after swim meets and sports games to help pick up trash, Strode said.

Strode said he first learned Zmuda was gay on Thursday, when the school president informed him about Zmuda's resignation.

Zmuda was scheduled to coach his final swim meet on Friday but did come to the event. Team members posted a banner on the wall reading: "We swim for Zmuda."

Greg Magnoni, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle, declined to comment on the situation, deferring instead to the school.

On its website, the school's president, Sister Mary E. Tracy, said she and Zmuda "reached an understanding that the correct action was for him to submit his resignation."

The statement said that Archbishop Peter Sartain agreed with the decision. The letter did not state a reason for the resignation.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state in November 2012. Zmuda married in July.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)

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