Mark Zmuda, the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, was forced to resign Thursday after marrying his same-sex partner. But while the school claims Zmuda breached his contract to uphold Catholic doctrine and that it is a “church decision,” hundreds of students rallied in support of their former vice principal and launched an online petition calling on the Catholic Church to end its opposition to same-sex marriage.
Eastside Catholic’s website brags that for 33 years the school has “transformed young men and women into lifelong learners and compassionate leaders.” This compassionate leadership was on display Thursday as students organized a massive sit-in in the school’s commons. Students at neighboring Catholic high schools followed, rallying in support of the Eastside students’ message of inclusion.
A Change.org petition, created by an Eastside Catholic student, has already received more than 10,000 signatures. It urges the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to “revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status.” This, they argue, is required for the faith to “achieve its mission of acting with unconditional love in every situation.”
Freshman Sophia Cerino told the Seattle Times, “Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the Church has. We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing – that we should all be treated equal.”
Senior Julia Troy told KING 5 news that the size of the protest would make it hard for the school administration to punish students for the sit-in. “Everyone just followed and how do you stop a big group like this from doing that? They can’t threaten us all with detention.”
A Friday rally is being organized by students and their allies at the Archdiocese of Seattle’s offices.
A March poll found that 59 percent of American Catholics support marriage equality for same-sex couples.