Exit of gay Catholic school vice principal could end in court

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on December 28, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Updated Saturday, Dec 28 at 9:40 AM

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- The controversial departure of Eastside Catholic School Vice Principal Mark Zmuda is heating up. Zmuda says he was fired for marrying a man; the school says he was resigned. All of this could end up in court.

While the Supreme Court extended class protection to same-sex couples in 2006, that may not apply to Zmuda.

“It does serve to remind us from my perspective that equality of gay marriage is not there yet. Just because we pass the law doesn’t mean that people don’t continue to face discrimination,” said Seth Rosenberg, an employment attorney.

According to Rosenberg, religious or private schools have certain legal leeway in regards to who they hire and who they keep based on their values.

“Another example is Catholic hospitals that don’t perform abortions. They’re allowed to do that because it’s not consistent with their beliefs,” said Rosenberg.

As an administrator in a religious school, Zmuda may not be afforded the same civil liberties as a teacher there would.

“This person being a principal was in a very public position where he needed to represent their values more than anyone else,” said Rosenberg.

Zmuda’s departure sparked outrage by students and others nationwide.

“To set the record straight, I was terminated,” said Zmuda, in an interview with former student Catrina Crittenden.

But not according to Michael Patterson, an attorney for the school, who says Zmuda resigned twice.

“He agreed that his same sex marriage violated Catholic teaching and understood he could no longer be employed in a Catholic school,” said Patterson in a written statement to KING 5.

School President Sister Mary Tracy told KING 5, “I suggested dissolving the marriage to save his job; I was trying to hang onto him.”

It’s a comment that Rosenberg finds troubling.

“If the school said that, if you just weren’t married, if you just went back in the closet everything would be ok. To me, how sincere are your beliefs I would question that, if that’s the solution you have,” he said.

After Zmuda’s exit, the school says it offered to help him find another job, even write him a good recommendation letter.

Another student protest called “The Support Mr. Z. Rally” is planned for Saturday.

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