Students stage sit-in, launch petition drive on behalf of gay vice principal

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Students at Eastside Catholic School. - PHOTO:

A group of Seattle area high school students staged a sit-in Dec. 19 in support of Mark Zmuda, a vice principal forced out of his job after he married his same-sex partner.

Zmuda lost his job at Eastside Catholic High School, which is operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, after officials learned that he'd recently married his same-sex partner, which is legal in the state of Washington. The school is in Sammamish, Wash.

Students responded by launching a petition and collected more than 8,000 signatures in one day. Students also staged a massive sit-in — hundreds of students assembled in the gymn — to support Zmuda and protest the ouster of the vice principal, who is known around the school as "Mr. Z."

Bradley Strode, the senior class president who started the petition, wrote, “We, the student body at Eastside Catholic School, have experienced an egregious injustice which was inflicted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. Our beloved vice principal, Mr. Zmuda, was terminated by the Archdiocese as a result of his marriage to another man. The student body is outraged that an incredible administrator, coach and human being was fired solely because of his love and marriage for another human being. We are uniting in order to change the Catholic Church’s opposition of gay marriage. It is time to revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status. United, we want this policy changed so that the Catholic Church can achieve its mission of acting with unconditional love in every situation.”

The petition is written to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With the protests spreading to other Catholic schools in the area, students also have asked Pope Francis to intervene.

Surveys show that U.S. Catholics support marriage equality at a higher rate than the general public. Six in 10 Catholics support legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States.

“The students of Eastside Catholic High School are proof of why the future belongs to the friends of equality," said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign. "To young people coming of age in the time of 'Modern Family' and Pope Francis, there is simply no argument that can justify discriminating against a beloved member of the community or any LGBT person. To the next generation, the Golden Rule always prevails, and I am inspired by the example the students of the Seattle-area Catholic high schools are setting."

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