By Mike Baker
SEATTLE — A former vice principal at a Catholic school said he was fired for marrying his male partner and that the school’s leader suggested he could get a divorce to keep the job.
Mark Zmuda said in a YouTube video posted on Saturday that he did not resign his position, as officials at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish have reported.
He said he was terminated and the head of the school, Sister Mary Tracy, even suggested that he could get a divorce and keep his job.
“It was a piece of paper, they said, that was the reason that I was being let go,” Zmuda said in the video, an interview conducted by one of his former students. He said he was shocked that divorce was an option on the table and rejected the idea.
A message left by The Associated Press at a phone number listed for Zmuda’s husband was not immediately returned. Tracy also didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
School attorney Mike Patterson recalled having two conversations with Zmuda in December, one in a meeting and one by phone. He said Zmuda confirmed in both conversations that he was resigning from the job, not being fired.
Patterson said the divorce suggestion from Tracy was a hypothetical that was never seriously explored.
“I think it was asked in a hypothetical fashion out of frustration more than anything else,” Patterson said.
Patterson said Zmuda was resigning because he understood his contractual obligations, which include following church teachings against gay marriage. He said Zmuda, who is Catholic, was offered a positive reference letter and help finding another job.
Eastside Catholic has about 900 students, mostly in high school. Many of them have rallied in support of Zmuda and protested his departure. Dozens rallied on Saturday in front of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.
On Monday, a handful of students met with Tracy, KOMO-TV reported.
“She expressed sincere regret that this all transpired,” Eastside Catholic senior Ian Edwards told KOMO. “It was kind of nice to hear her say, ‘This is unfortunate, we wish it didn’t happen this way.'”
Still, Edwards said Tracy told the students that the Zmuda decision was final.
Zmuda, who is from Virginia Beach, Va., said the support he’s received has been overwhelming. He praised the students for leading efforts on social media and within the school to make their voices heard.
“They’re the ones really making and starting this change,” Zmuda said.