Fired for gay marriage, Seattle-area Catholic school official sues

Fri Mar 7, 2014 5:58pm EST
 
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By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - A suburban Seattle Catholic school vice principal who was fired in December for violating religious doctrine by marrying his same-sex partner, on Friday sued the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle for wrongful dismissal.

Mark Zmuda, who was also a swim coach at Eastside Catholic School, said he took the job after reading a school policy, since removed from its website, that it does not discriminate on the basis of an employee's sexual orientation or marital status.

His ouster, which led to student protests followed by the school president's resignation, is an example of tension between the increasing number of Americans who support same-sex marriage and religiously affiliated employers who view it as immoral.

"I was told I could either divorce or be fired," Zmuda told reporters at his lawyer's Seattle office. "How could anyone ask anyone else to make that kind of choice?"

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state in November 2012. Zmuda was married last July.

The school counters in a response that it said it had yet to file in court that Washington's gay marriage law exempts religious institutions from recognizing same-sex marriages. A copy of the response seen by Reuters also asserts that Zmuda's lawsuit infringes on the school's first amendment right to religious freedom. It wants the lawsuit dismissed.

The school of 935 students in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish said Zmuda had agreed to abide by Catholic principles, and that he initially obscured his relationship by listing his then-boyfriend as a roommate on an emergency contact form.

It said parents complained of "inappropriate" photographs posted to Zmuda's Facebook account, which he subsequently agreed to delete.   Continued...