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Gay Vice Principal Sues Seattle Archdiocese, Eastside Catholic School for Discrimination

( [email protected] ) Mar 14, 2014 04:46 PM EDT
The school fired Zmuda after he married his same sex partner, now he says they discriminated against him.  The school says he knew their rules when he took the job.
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A vice principal at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammash, Wash, has filed a lawsuit claiming his firing was a discriminatory practice based on his sexual orientation. The school fired Mark Zmuda in December 2013  after he married his same sex partner. Both Eastside Catholic and the Archdiocese of Seattle are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

In a news conference on Friday, March 7, Zmuda, 38, said that prior to accepting the job, he read anti-discrimination statements in the employee handbook and thought that might protect him if his sexual orientation became an issue.  

The school fired Zmuda, saying he violated terms of his contract, which require adherence to Catholic Church teachings. The church forbids same-sex marriage, and views homosexuality as a sinful lifestyle,  and court rulings have upheld religious institutions' rights to hire and fire according to the tenets of their faith.  They believe Zmuda knew the church's position when he was hired, and willfully broke their guidelines.  

However, in a ruling in February, the Washington State Supreme Court found that nonprofit religious institutions in the state could be sued for job discrimination if an employee's job is unrelated to religion.

Eastside has filed a motion to  have the suit dismissed, pointing out the court can't even hear the case without breaking it's First Amendment rights, which protects the freedom of religious practice.

"The archdiocese did not direct, nor does it have the ability or authority to direct, employment decisions made by Eastside Catholic School, but the archdiocese believes the school's decision is consistent with Catholic teaching," the statement reads.

"I am a lifelong Catholic," Zmuda said. "I am a gay man. I did not choose to be gay. I do not see any inconsistency in the teachings of Jesus and being gay."

The school claims that at the time of his firing, Zmuda said he knew catholic doctrine and knew he was not in compliance and understood his firing.  

Zmuda's lawsuit notes that the school previously posted a statement on its website that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation but that statement was removed after his dismissal. He also claims the school knew about his partner and sexual orientation before he was married and did not address it.  

When Zmuda was let go from Eastside Catholic, many disgruntled students protested the decision. They subsequently submitted a petition protesting the dismissal to the archdiocese.

Zmuda seeks unstated damages against Eastside Catholic for loss of his job and difficulty in continuing his career as a school administrator.