By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com March 07 2014 7:55 PM ET
Mark Zmuda, the gay vice principal let go by a suburban Seattle Catholic school after marrying his longtime partner, is bringing a wrongful-termination suit against the school and the Catholic archdiocese of Seattle.
Zmuda’s lawyers planned to file the suit today in King County Superior Court, The Seattle Times reports. It alleges “breach of contract, wrongful termination, violation of public policy, as well as violation of the state’s consumer-protection and anti-discrimination laws,” according to the paper. It also claims the archdiocese interfered in Zmuda’s relationship with his employer, Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish.
Eastside Catholic forced Zmuda to resign in December, after school officials learned he had married his male partner during the summer. Zmuda’s suit alleges the order to terminate him came from the archdiocese, even though the archdiocese does not manage the school, which has an independent board of trustees.
At the time of his dismissal, school administrators said that by marrying a man, Zmuda had violated Catholic doctrine, which he had agreed to uphold when he accepted the job. Zmuda says in the suit that his work was administrative and “wholly unrelated to any religious practice or activity.” He also says Eastside Catholic had pledged not to discriminate against employees on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation. He seeks compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, and harm to his reputation.
A recent Washington Supreme Court ruling allows for antidiscrimination suits against religious nonprofit institutions if an employee’s job was unrelated to religion. Otherwise, such institutions in Washington are generally exempt from state antidiscrimination laws.
Eastside Catholic officials plan to seek dismissal of Zmuda’s suit, claiming in a written response, “This Court’s interference in Eastside Catholic’s decision on whether to employ a person married to someone of the same sex, a violation of Catholic doctrine, would encroach on Eastside Catholic’s ability to manage its internal affairs,” the Times reports. They also contend that Zmuda had posted inappropriate content on his Facebook page, which he agreed to remove after they brought it up with him.