Mark Zmuda
Hundreds of Catholic Students Protest Gay Vice Principal's Dismissal

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com December 20 2013 3:16 PM ET

Students of a Catholic high school are rallying in protest of their gay vice principal’s forced resignation.

Hundreds from Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Wash., skipped class to stage a sit-in Thursday after school officials, following an order from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, told vice principal Mark Zmuda to resign, reports The Seattle Times. The school, pointing to a forecast of snow "and in light of a difficult day," closed early for holiday break.

Dozens more braved the snow today to rally in front of Sammamish City Hall to support Zmuda.

In a letter sent to parents and students, school officials said that Zmuda had violated his contract by marrying his partner, Dana Jergens, last summer, several months after the state had enacted marriage equality.

“Mark’s same-sex marriage over the summer violated his employment contract with the school,” the statement reads. “As a Catholic school, Eastside Catholic abides by the official teachings of the Catholic Church, and as such, the decision to discontinue his employment was determined by the Catholic Church.”

In an emotional address to students and staff, Zmuda talked about his resignation and wished his charges bright futures in their own careers and relationships.

"I love each and every one of you. ... Yes, I am gay. Yes, I did get married this past summer, and I know it is against the Catholic teaching,” said Zmuda, in a video that appears to be recorded on a cell phone. “I think a lot of you guys are raised in a generation that is more open and accepting to things that are legal now in the state of Washington. ... I hope that no matter what happens to me and to the school that all of you guys will seek a career and work very hard, find the love of your life, and hopefully one day get married as well."

The Eastside Catholic student body has also initiated a Change.org petition that urges the Catholic Church to change its policies on same-sex marriage and reinstate Zmuda in his former position. The petition has reached nearly 14,000 supporters at the time of this article’s posting.

“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,” the petition states. “It is time to revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status.”

Students are also taking to social media to protest Zmuda’s resignation, Tweeting with the hastag #keepmrz2013.

Watch the video of Zmuda's address to the student body of Eastside Catholic below.