A California teacher was fired from a Catholic high school shortly after marrying his longtime partner.
Ken Bencomo, 45, was dismissed from St. Lucy’s Priory High School on July 15, according to the Huffington Post, on the grounds that his marriage went against the beliefs of the Catholic Church. He was an employee of the school for 17 years.
Bencomo, who was head of the English department at the all-girls school, married his partner of 10 years, Christopher Persky, on July 1 after marriage equality was restored to California. A local paper, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, published an online article with a video and photograph of the happy couple after their wedding at the San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder's Office, which brought the ceremony to public attention.
"The happiest day of his life has turned into a nightmare," Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo’s lawyer, told Huff Post. "He's sick about it because he has such an affinity for the school. His lifelong efforts have been disrupted. The humiliation hurts him very much."
Students and alumni of the school, located in Glendora, Calif., were quick to rally in support of their teacher. Abigail O’Brien, who graduated from St. Lucy’s in 2012, launched a Facebook group alerting the community of Bencomo’s dismissal. She encouraged the members, which numbered nearly 1,800 people at the time of this article’s publishing, to write letters to the school and attend a protest march on August 8. A Change.org petition calling on St. Lucy's to reinstate Bencomo already has more than 13,000 signatures.
"St. Lucy's taught us to be respectful, ambitious, and classy," O'Brien wrote on the Facebook group, adding, "it is imperative that we display those standards."
St. Lucy’s released the following statement:
"We respect and protect privacy interests and, to be respectful of those involved, the school does not comment on confidential matters," the school stated. "St. Lucy’s wishes to reassure all in our community that upholding its mission to educate students in the tradition of the Catholic faith is of paramount importance."