California Catholic school fires teacher after gay wedding

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A Rancho Cucamonga man who taught 17 years at a Catholic high school was fired from his job days after he married his gay partner in a San Bernardino civil ceremony.

While school representatives declined comment on the matter, an attorney representing 45-year-old Ken Bencomo says he was fired because of the same-sex ceremony.

“The reason given was that the marriage occurred and the school’s position was that it violated church teachings,” said Chatsworth attorney Patrick McGarrigle.

Bencomo, 45, was head of the English department at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, but also worked as a yearbook moderator and dance coach.

Students say they were aware of Bencomo’s sexual orientation.

“He never talkedbout his personal life to his students, but it’s something that students and faculty knew,” said former student, Abigail O’Brien, 19, of Upland.

McGarrigle also said the school was aware long before he got married.

“St. Lucy’s has known of Mr. Bencomo’s orientation for years,” he said. “Administrators had been introduced to his partner in the past, so the suggestion that Ken’s orientation is a surprise or that his lifestyle somehow violated doctrine is at odds with the school’s knowlege and what seemed to be acceptance of him until most recently.”

In an online petition protesting Bencomo’s termination, supporters of the former teacher say a July 2 article in the Daily Bulletin prompted the school to dismiss him. Bencomo and his husband Christopher Persky, 32, of Rancho Cucamonga were one of the first gay couples to line up at the San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder’s Office to get married July 1 following a Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage.

He appeared in photographs and video for the story.

Sister Helen Dziuk, assistant principal at St. Lucy’s, declined comment and referred inquiries to the school’s attorney, Joseph Stark.

St. Lucy’s officials later issued a written statement, saying the school plans to continue educating students “in the tradition of the Catholic faith.”

“As a Benedictine school, St. Lucy’s is a community for those who wish to express Christian values in education and develop person and academic excellence,” the statement said.

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