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After much prayer, church stands by decision to oust gay administrator

After much prayer, church stands by decision to oust gay administrator

SEATTLE — The Archdiocese of Seattle said Wednesday it won’t change its mind about rehiring a gay vice principal who was encouraged to leave a Seattle-area Catholic high school after school officials learned he had married his same-sex partner.

Mark Zmuda (right) and husband Dana Jergens.
Mark Zmuda (right) and husband Dana Jergens.

Students and parents protesting the departure of Mark Zmuda, a popular teacher, coach and vice principal, also turned in a petition to Eastside Catholic High School and the archdiocese on Wednesday.

The online petition started on by the senior class president gathered more than 30,000 signatures since late December.

The archdiocese responded with a statement saying they stand by the decision.

“The recent personnel decision by the board and administrators of Eastside Catholic regarding Mr. Zmuda was made after a great deal of prayer and consultation,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain wrote. “In no way was their goal to be discriminatory to anyone but to be faithful to their mission as a Catholic school.”

The school board of trustees wrote to parents detailing the events leading up to Zmuda’s departure on Dec. 20 and invited them to attend a parent meeting next week.

The letter explains that all employees of the private school are required to sign an agreement that their public behaviors would at all times be consistent with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church. The church does not recognize gay marriage, the letter pointed out.

“When Mr. Zmuda married his same-sex partner, the school administration was left with no acceptable alternative that would allow him to remain eligible for employment at Eastside Catholic School,” the letter to parents said.

Senior class president Bradley Strode, 17, of Bellevue, said the students want to effect change within the wider Catholic Church, with an ultimate goal of altering the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage.

The student protest began as a sit-in at the school and has since spawned outside rallies both near the school and near the archdiocese in Seattle.

This had been Zmuda’s first year as an administrator at the school with nearly 700 high school students and more than 250 middle school students in Sammamish, a Seattle suburb.

Another gay educator at Eastside Catholic, who recently announced she was engaged to her same-sex partner, said last week that the school had given her a new employment agreement as an independent contractor.

Stephanie Merrow, a part-time musical coach who is choreographing this year’s spring musical, was told by school administrators that her marital status does not matter. She said her contract did not mention Catholic teachings.

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