St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, California has fired a 17-year veteran teacher because he married his same-sex partner. On July 1, Ken Bencomo married his partner of 10 years, Christopher Persky, in one of the first ceremonies to take place at the San Bernadino County Hall of Records after the stay was lifted on the injunction against Proposition 8. As a result, the ceremony was covered by local press, and it was that publicity that led the Catholic school to take action Bencomo.
By marrying, the school says Bencomo “violated church teachings” and thus could no longer continue in his employment:
The Diocese of San Bernardino said its Catholic schools prohibit discrimination against teachers or other school employees based on their lifestyle choices.
“However, if a teacher or school employee makes a public display of behavior that is counter to church teaching — such as homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, having a child outside of marriage — that can impact their employment status,” said John Andrews, diocese spokesman.
School policies outlined by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles say a staff member can be counseled or disciplined if he or she engages in “behavior counter to the moral teachings and standards of the church.”
California law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but in other cases of discrimination by religious organizations, they have claimed that there is a “ministerial exception.” They argue that the teachers are extensions of the religion, and thus qualify as clergy and are subject to religious exemptions to nondiscrimination protections. So far, St. Lucy’s has made no such claim, and Bencomo is hoping to remedy the situation without taking legal action.
A Change.org petition calling on St. Lucy’s to reinstate Bencomo has already garnered over 6,000 signatures.