What should be a depressing story about yet another employee of the Catholic Church being fired for being gay actually has an uplifting twist: the youth community rallying in support of same-sex marriage.
In a refreshing sign of the changing times, teenagers in Washington walked out of school to protest discrimination against the termination of their vice principal. We’re not just talking the Gay-Straight Alliance either – hundreds of students participated, nearly the entire student body, along with some faculty members, as well.
Mark Zmuda, an administration at Eastside Catholic High School, married his husband this past summer, but it wasn’t until school officials learned of this fact a couple of weeks ago that he encountered any problems. Though there’s some argument over whether Zmuda was fired or forced to resign, one thing is certain: one way or another, Zmuda would not be able to keep his job because of his sexual orientation.
Fortunately, there’s no need to tell residents of Eastside how bogus this situation is. The youth community has rebelled to make it clear that it won’t stand for the discrimination and intolerance. Using Twitter and other forms of social media, students organized both a sit-in and walk-out to demonstrate their support for Zmuda. Simultaneously, students at other local Catholic schools staged similar protests to show their solidarity.
According to students, Zmuda’s sexuality did not influence his job performance. “We did not know he was gay before today,” said Christian Leider, a senior. “He’s always looking out for the best in everyone and he always wants everyone to do their best.”
The fact that most of the students identify as Catholic is also significant. Though church officials still preach an adherence to “traditional” morality, the Catholic population is growing increasingly liberal.
“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the church has,” said freshman Sophia Cerino. “We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing — that we should all be treated equal.”
When speaking to the media, many Eastside students referenced the Pope’s views on homosexuality. Earlier this year, Pope Francis indicated that the Catholic Church puts too much emphasis on condemning homosexuality and that other moral issues warranted more attention instead.
Even with the support of Catholic youth – and perhaps Pope Francis – it doesn’t seem likely that Zmuda will win his job back. The order for Zmuda’s termination came down from the Archdiocese of Seattle. According to lawyers for the church, Zmuda broke his employment contract that forbids same-sex marriage.
Whether or not he regains his position, Zmuda will have a lifelong impact on his students. Addressing the student body at a rally in his honor, Zmuda said, “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. 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.”
Photo Credit: Eric Jensen