If Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, WA, thought it was going to quietly put its dismissal of vice-principal Mark Zmuda behind it, it’s been sorely mistaken. Now, in his first national TV interview, Zmuda is speaking out about his experience, including the opportunity to keep his job if he divorced his husband.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong. I married the love of my life,” Mark Zmuda told Al Jazeera TV. “It’s legal in the state of Washington. And it’s very important. I want to be married. And I want to still have my faith and still believe in God.”
As a gay man in a Catholic school, Zmuda says he knew he had to tread carefully. That included fulfilling the school’s request to keep his spouse invisible.
“They asked me not to bring my partner, Dana Jergens, at the time, to any of our school events, not to bring up issues or questions,” Zmuda says. “So he was not invited to anything. So we kept our private life private.”
But that wasn’t enough. When Zmuda mentioned his own wedding during a discussion about wedding flowers with other teachers, another teacher overheard. Then, in an exhibition of betrayal that would do Judas Iscariot proud, a group of teachers took the issue to his supervisor. Eventually, the school president, Sister Mary Tracy, stepped in to confront Zmuda, who told her he was “married to the love of my life.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Tracy responded, in perhaps the worst wedding wishes ever. Tracy then floated the idea that Zmuda get a divorce to keep his job.
Zmuda says he was appropriately shocked. “This was just kind of brazen,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe anybody would just ask me to do that. I love my husband. I love being married.”
Unfortunately for Eastside Catholic, the students love Zmuda. They continue to protest his firing, presenting a petition with 20,000 signatures to the the Archdiocese of Seattle, which affirmed its right to fire Zmuda for not living up to the lofty standards of the same institution that protected pedophile priests for decades. (Tracy has since resigned her position.)
As for Zmuda, he says that he’s “touched” by the outpouring of support from the students. “I could not be more proud of just their efforts for all the different things,” he says. “I mean, they stood up for me in what they thought was right.”
I’m most definitely not anti-religion.
but dammit Jim, catholicism? really? one of the denominations that has the most issues with homosexuality? (with any sexuality, actually)
There are countless other denominations that are open and accepting of LGBT people. Why not try one of those?
my husband and I were both brought up roman catholic, but that was simply because the vast majority of people where we live are long-time catholics. Most are pretty much non-practising. so catholic-in-name-only.
But we found a great denomination who were more than happy to accept us into the fold, with open arms. our wedding was beautiful. and at no time did we ever feel like we had to lie to ANYone about who we were.
Lying is not a life… unless you’re a catholic priest or a pope.
Work for a hate group, expect hate.
Why is the church’s proposition so outrageous, he let them lead him by his nose pinched between their buttcheeks for years before.
I would say Zmuda is a Class-A jerk for accepting the terms to keep his partner “invisible.” Granted, he couldn’t have done it without his partner playing along.
If he was 22 and choosing his job and church over his boyfriend, that would be one thing; but to subject the person he supposedly loves to such a situation at his age: reprehensible.
I thought the Catholic Church also doesn’t believe in divorce. To suggest a man enter into divorce (not because of a failed relationship mind you) seems unholy and hypocritical.
This man seems like a perfect gentleman and exactly the sort of person we do want as a role model for our young people.
Unfortunately while he was very young and had not yet developed critical thinking skills his family and culture taught him to believe in an Invisible Sky Monster. It would be to his benefit if he dropped the ridiculous ancient superstitions used to justify bigotry and intolerance.
This man obviously does not need the Catholic Church to teach him how to be a good person.
He’s a sociopath looking for money..why was he working there in the first place?? There are other schools you know….
Boo-hoo….. he worked for a hate group for years and then got caught in their hate. He cashed their paychecks every month, he was part of them. We have gay rights issues to tackle, and he is NOT one of them.
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The only thing that will carry any weight here is that Tracy lost her job.
How surprised could he have been?
I was raised Catholic and my parents put me through Catholic school, believing that I would get a better education there. I totally understand why good people choose to take the risk of working at these schools despite being queer, or liberal in ways that the school won’t approve of, or any other neutral/positive trait that still might get them fired. Kids usually have no choice to attend these schools, and without sympathetic adults, they might grow up believing that there’s no one in authority who accepts them for who they really are.
I can’t feel sorry for these people who knowingly work for anti-gay organizations. The Catholic Church is one of the most virulently homophobic institutions around. What did he expect to happen?
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