Students at Eastside Catholic High School staged a sit-in Thursday, and it had nothing to do with academics. The Sammamish, Wash., school forced its vice principal, Mark Zmuda, to resign because he married his partner over the summer. Now students are calling for the Archdiocese of Seattle change its policies regarding LGBT faculty who decide to wed.
“"We're all here because we love him and we want to feel like we can accept people for who they are here at Eastside,” senior Julia Troy told KOMO 4 News in Seattle. The peaceful protest started in the school commons and cafeteria before the crowd swelled to over 300 and moved on to the streets. “What a lot of us are questioning is why it took them this long to decide to fire him, because this man has, and continues to make a really big impact on our school.”
Eastside officials say it was the archdiocese’s decision based on the contract that the vice principal signed. According to the document, Zmuda must follow the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which opposes gay marriage. The school learned of the wedding just a few weeks ago. Fully aware that he would face termination, Zmuda resigned effective today. A half-day was originally scheduled, but Eastside will be closed due to inclement weather in the Seattle area.
“Be the leaders of tomorrow that I know you all can be, because you all can make a difference,” the man affectionately known as “Mr. Z” told students during their sit-in. “You’ve made a difference in my life today.”
Washington state legalized same-sex marriages last December. Between the end of 2012 and September of this year, gay couples made up 17 percent of weddings that took place in the state.
Most of the 400-plus students at Eastside took part in the sit-in, either literally or virtually through social media. The students used the hashtag “KeepMrZ2013” and spread their plans through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and text messaging. Other area Catholic schools caught wind of the events and planned their own ways to show support, from creating signs to holding discussions on equality.
The students originally planned to stage the sit-in this morning, however moved up their plans after learning of Zmuda’s resignation yesterday.