The forced resignation of a popular high school vice principal in Washington prompted hundreds of students to stage a protest that effectively shut the school down.
Sit-ins and walk-outs were held all day yesterday at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish following news that vice principal Mark Zmuda had been dismissed for marrying his same-sex partner back in July.
Same-sex marriage is legal in the state of Washington, but Zmuda's private love life reportedly ran afoul of the Archdiocese of Seattle, which oversees the school, and he was ordered to resign.
As word spread about the protest at Eastside Catholic, several other Catholic high school in the area joined in solidarity.
A Change.org petition calling on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reverse the Church's stance against gay marriage has racked up over 10,000 signatures in just 24 hours.
But it seems nothing short of a miracle will get Zmuda reinstated.
"He understood he could no longer be employed there because of his current circumstances," said Eastside Catholic spokesman Mike Patterson, referring to Zmuda, whom he call an "exemplary" administrator.
According to Patterson, the school, like other Catholic schools, makes every teacher sign a contract vowing to adhere to the Church's doctrine, which strictly prohibits same-sex marriage.
Zmuda himself spoke with rallying students, and took the opportunity to officially come out:
I just want to make one brief statement and that is to tell you that yes, I am gay. Yes, I did get married this past summer and I know it is against the Catholic teaching. I think a lot of you guys are raised in a generation that is more open and acceptable to things that are legal now in the State of Washington. But, I just want you to know that my personal life is a small part of who I am.
I am first a teacher and administrator. And, I try my best to be an educator to each and every one of you. And, I hope that no matter what happens to me and to the school, that all of you guys will seek a career and work very hard, find the love of your life, hopefully one day get married as well. At the same time, no matter what happens, strive to do your best.
Since news of the protest went national, several Eastside Catholic alumni have come forward to say they will cease their financial support of the institution.
The school's principal, Polly Skinner, sent out an email to one graduate, saying Zmuda's dismissal "was based on the Archdiocese of Seattle's authority over a Catholic school," and that "we are saddened and as a Catholic school, bound by Catholic Teaching regarding Same Sex marriage."