Eastside Catholic students chant “Change the church” outside the school Thursday, angry over the departure of a popular vice principal who married his partner.
December 19, 2013

Hundreds of students at a Seattle Catholic school held a “sit in” to protest their vice principal being forced to resign because he married a man, according to reports.

More than 400 students reportedly filled the lunch atrium of Eastside Catholic School, in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, to challenge school officials after Mark Zmuda fell out of favor with the church for getting married to his partner Dana Jergens last July.

According to King 5 News, Zmuda’s last day is Friday.

The students, who posted banners saying “We [heart] you Mr. Z,” briefly walked out of the school and continued refusing to go to class until about 11:30 a.m.

The school reportedly approached Zmuda in the fall and told him he was in violation of his contract.

Zmuda’s profile on the school website says he taught math at the school and has worked in middle schools and high schools for 13 years.

Eastside Catholic President and CEO Sister Mary Tracy told King 5 it was the church’s decision to deal with the situation this way, not the school’s.

Mike Patterson, another representative for the school, told the Seattle Times “[Zmuda] understood he could no longer be employed there because of his current circumstances.”

The students have also put a petition online, which has already been signed by over 7,700 people on Thursday evening, calling on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle to reconsider its stance on same-sex marriage and allow Zmuda to continue working at the school.

“Mr. Zmuda, was terminated by the Archdiocese as a result of his marriage to another man. The student body is outraged that an incredible administrator, coach, and human being was fired solely because of his love and marriage for another human being. We are uniting in order to change the Catholic Church’s opposition of gay marriage,” the students wrote on Change.org.

“It is time to revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status,” the students said.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state of Washington since Dec. 2012.

The demonstration at Eastside Catholic comes just six days after students at a Philadelphia Roman Catholic high school protested termination of a popular teacher.

Officials at Holy Ghost Preparatory School fired 35-year-old Michael Griffin earlier this month.

According to The Associated Press, he emailed the school’s principal on Dec. 6 to say he would be late for a meeting because he was getting a marriage licence in New Jersey, where he lived with his partner. The couple took part in a civil union ceremony five years ago, but the state recently legalized same-sex marriage.

Officials at the Philadelphia school said they respected Griffin’s private life, which wasn’t a secret, until his email forced the issue.

"All of us, including Mr. Griffin, understood that his decision would place him in violation of his contract," according to a statement from the school.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. On Thursday, New Mexico became the most recent state to legalize same-sex marriage.

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