Rancho Cucamonga resident Ken Bencomo had been a teacher at St. Lucy’s Priory High School for 17 years, where he had become head of the English department, coached the dance squad and oversaw the yearbook.
Though a former student says Bencomo never spoke of his personal life to his students, they knew he was gay, while staff had previously been introduced to his partner, Christopher Persky.
Bencomo and Persky, 32, were one of the first gay couples married in San Bernadino County on July 1, following the Supreme Court’s decision to rule Prop 8 unconstitutional. News of their nuptials broke on July 2 in the Daily Bulletin, prompting St. Lucy’s to dismiss Bencomo.
“The reason given was that the marriage occurred and the school’s position was that it violated church teachings,” Bencomo’s attorney Patrick McGarrigle told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
According to Diocese of San Bernadino spokesman John Andrews, had Bencomo not appeared in the paper he might still have his job. The Diocese prohibits discrimination against teachers and other employees based on their “lifestyle choices” but if they make “a public display of behavior that is counter to church teaching – such as homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, having a child outside of marriage,” Andrews said, “that can impact their employment status.”
St. Lucy’s issued a statement after dismissing Bencomo reassuring the community that “upholding its mission to educate students in the tradition of the Catholic faith is of paramount importance.”
Catholic schools have a record of job discrimination based on religious principles, with teachers being fired or urged to resign for revealing same-sex relationships, accidentally being outed, for being transgender or even speaking out in support of gay marriage.
A petition urging St. Lucy’s to give Bencomo his job back has so far garnered over 8,000 signatures, though Bencomo hopes to resolve the issue without legal action.
Photo: The Raw Story