Seattle Students Continue Challenging Injustices in Catholic Education

Students & allies protest Zmuda’s firing

In Seattle, Eastside Catholic High School’s decision to fire gay administrator Mark Zmuda after marrying his husband continues to have repercussions in the Archdiocese of Seattle, as new developments appear months after the December action.

Zmuda has decided to sue the school and the Archdiocese for discrimination and wrongful termination. Meanwhile, the defense preemptively filed a motion to dismiss the suit, citing exemptions for religious institutions in state law. KING 5 provides further details about the lawsuit:

“According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by KING 5, in January 2013, then school president Sister Mary Tracy asked Zmuda if he was gay. When he said ‘yes,’ Tracy asked him not to bring his same-sex partner to any school related events. Zmuda agreed.

“In July 2013, Zmuda married his long time partner.  In November, the lawsuit states school administrators asked Zmuda if he was gay. When he confirmed, Tracy told him the school would pay for a ‘commitment ceremony’ if Zmuda got a divorce. When Zmuda refused to get a divorce, he was fired.”

The Zmuda firing prompted a student walkout, repeated protests, a 21,000 signature petition, and nationwide Z-Day of Action in late January. This uprising also witnessed the resignation of both Eastside Catholic’s president and board chairman.

Inspired by this activism, the student government at Seattle University, a Jesuit college, released an open letter signed by more than 500 students to the Church’s hierarchy from Pope Francis down to Eastside Catholic’s trustees asking for dialogue. National Catholic Reporter details further:

“[Students] asked for ‘dialogue centered first and foremost on affirmation, inclusion and invitation to greater understanding’ in the wake of ECS’s removal of vice principal Mark Zmuda because of his same-sex marriage…

“The SU student government letter said its signers ‘respectfully challenge the decision of Eastside Catholic’s trustees not to rehire Mr. Z (nickname for Zmuda) and we contend that he poses a vital question to the church that we, the Archdiocese of Seattle, and all those engaged in debates like this around the country must answer with a spirit of love, unity and equality.’

” ‘However,’ the letter added, ‘a far more encompassing and open dialogue must follow.’ “

At a press conference announcing the letter, student government president Eric Chalmers said more ideas were developing, including collaboration with students at other Jesuit schools and hosting events at Seattle University on LGBT church worker issues.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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