Hundreds of students from Eastside Catholic High School staged a protest in support of vice principal Mark Zmuda who was dismissed for marrying the man he loves. The students organized sit-ins and walk-outs all day yesterday at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington. The protests were so effective the school was shut down. When word of Zmuda's dismissal and the protests spread, several other Catholic high schools in the area joined the students of Eastside Catholic HS as a sign of solidarity.
A Change.org petition attained over 10,000 signatures in just 24 hours in support of Zmuda. The petition urged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reverse the Church's stance against Marriage Equality. Eastside Catholic alumni have also taken a stand against Zmuda's dismissal by stating that they will discontinue any financial support of the school.
— Caelan Colburn (@The_Crabmeister) December 19, 2013
— Julia Burns (@_juliaburns) December 19, 2013
— Alison Morrow (@AlisonMorrowTV) December 19, 2013
Zmuda spoke with rallying students outside the school, and used the opportunity to officially come out:
I just want to make one brief statement and that is to tell you that yes, I am gay. Yes, I did get married this past summer and I know it is against the Catholic teaching. I think a lot of you guys are raised in a generation that is more open and acceptable to things that are legal now in the State of Washington. But, I just want you to know that my personal life is a small part of who I am.
I am first a teacher and administrator. And, I try my best to be an educator to each and every one of you. And, 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, hopefully one day get married as well. At the same time, no matter what happens, strive to do your best.
It was only a few months ago that Pope Francis spoke to countless youth in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. It was on that day Pope Francis encouraged young Catholics to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a "mess".
"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"
Pope Francis has the attention of both Catholics and non-Catholics, both young and old. Changes in the Catholic church are slow and usually come from the fringes. Are we witnessing a groundswell of Catholics who love their faith as well as their LGBT friends and family? I think we will be hearing a lot more from Eastside Catholic High School in the near future.
Gawker.com has more on the story. Watch the video below.