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Washington State: Gay vice-principal to sue for wrongful termination

Mark Zmuda was let go after school officials learned he had married his partner

Former Eastside Catholic High School vice-principal Mark Zmuda (right) is suing the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle for wrongful termination. Credit: patheos.com

A gay vice-principal who says he was fired from Eastside Catholic High School after officials found out he had married his partner is suing the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle for wrongful termination, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

According to the report, Zmuda alleges that Archbishop J Peter Sartain made the decision to dismiss him. The former vice-principal argues that he never served in a religious role, saying his role was  “purely administrative.”

Lawyer Jeffrey Needle says if what Zmuda claims is true, then a Washington Supreme Court ruling could be invoked in his favour. 

The school and archdiocese indicated that they had filed a motion to have Zmuda’s suit thrown out.

In the filing, the school acknowledges that it knew Zmuda had a domestic partner at the time he was hired, in May 2012, that he revealed he is gay in January 2013, and that  Zmuda signed off on a letter that stated his behaviour should be “consistent with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church,” which opposes gay marriage, the report says.

Zmuda’s dismissal sparked protests Dec 19, with Eastside students walking out of class or not bothering to show up, chanting, Keep Mr Z and Change the church. It was reported that students in other Catholic schools in surrounding cities staged sit-ins and other forms of protest in solidarity with Eastside students.

In an interview with student Caterina Crittenden, Zmuda says that, contrary to previous reports, he didn’t resign, but was fired. 

“To set the record straight, I was terminated,” he tells Crittenden. Zmuda says he inquired as to whether he was being dismissed because of a breach of contract or poor job performance and was told that those were not the reasons for his termination. “They said it was because I was married to a man.”

An attorney for Eastside, Michael Paterson, had said Zmuda resigned after the school found out about his marriage.

Despite petition drives calling for Zmuda’s reinstatement, the archdiocese has said it won’t rehire him.

Seattle’s KING 5 News reported that former school president, Sister Mary Tracy, had suggested to Zmuda that he end his marriage to save his job. Tracy resigned her position as the controversy over Zmuda’s dismissal grew.