Seattle Catholic students protest departure of gay teacher

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When Eastside Catholic High School ended the employment of its vice principal for marrying his same-sex partner, it joined a growing list of Catholic institutions that have fired gay employees for marrying, announcing wedding plans or advocating too enthusiastically for gay marriage.

The terminations — more than 15 across the country in the last two years or so — continue, despite what appears to be a softening by Pope Francis on a number of contentious church issues, including homosexuality and gay unions.

Friday will be the last day at Eastside Catholic for vice principal and swim coach Mark Zmuda, 38, who joined the staff about a year and a half ago.

On Thursday afternoon the Sammamish school announced that Friday classes would be canceled and the school would close early for Christmas break due to forecast snow “and in light of the difficult day” the school had had after hundreds of students staged a sit-in and rally against the dismissal that drew widespread media attention.

Their protest spread via texts and Twitter to students at other area Catholic schools. Seattle Preparatory School students showed solidarity with a similar protest.

Mike Patterson, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Seattle and for Eastside Catholic, said the process that led to Zmuda’s departure began about two weeks ago.

“We became aware of his same-sex marriage through some other employees at the school who indicated that he had related that to them,” said Patterson.

Officials gave conflicting messages about the nature of Zmuda’s departure, insisting that he had resigned even as the school, in a letter to parents, stated that his employment had been terminated because he violated his contract.

“He resigned,” Patterson said Thursday afternoon. “I just spoke with him within the last two hours. He agrees he resigned.”

Zmuda did not return calls from The Times.

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