Catholic school's students rally over same-sex marriage

Alumni add their weight to argument over vice principal's resignation

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SEATTLE — Condemnation of Eastside Catholic School's dismissal of its gay vice principal for marrying his partner — ignited by student protests Thursday — grew louder Friday with demonstrations in Sammamish and downtown Seattle.

Disapproval has spread far wider over social media, especially among Eastside's far-flung alumni. Many are returning to the Seattle area for the holidays and reunions with classmates.

"I'm getting texts from all over the country and all over the globe. I've got somebody in Thailand who is upset about it," said Mary Kopczynski, a 1996 Eastside Catholic graduate and CEO of a financial-consulting firm in New York City, who is coming home for Christmas week. "This is not small, and this is just the beginning."

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle could not be reached Friday to discuss the reaction to Zmuda's dismissal.

School authorities said they learned about two weeks ago that Zmuda had married his partner over the summer.

They met with him Tuesday and, according to the school's attorney, everyone present — including Zmuda — agreed that he couldn't remain on staff because the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage. His last day at the school was Friday.

"Mark's same-sex marriage over the summer violated his employment contract with the school," the school said Thursday in a letter to parents.

When students learned about it Thursday morning, they staged a sit-in and rally that attracted wide media attention and prompted other area Catholic high-school students to show solidarity.

One 2006 Eastside Catholic alumnus, Corey Sinser, attended a rally Friday afternoon in front of the offices of the Archdiocese of Seattle organized by Social Outreach of Seattle, with students of area Catholic high schools and gay-rights advocates.

"Ed Murray showed up, the mayor-elect," Sinser said. "He spoke to us for a couple of minutes about his Catholic upbringing and how he handled his homosexuality in light of the Catholic doctrine, which was pretty inspiring."

Kopczynski, the New York CEO, who was the school's student body president her senior year, said, "Every time I look at my Facebook I have another 50 alerts of more people talking about how upset they are.

"… I've already heard from people who are talking about pulling their kids" or ending their financial donations, she said.

At the same time, she is also hearing from people who accept the school's rationale with resignation, or fully support it.

"I've had a number of people that have reached out saying, 'Hey, the school's hands were tied, it's an unfortunate situation,' or they said, 'They followed the church's teaching, move on,'" Kopczynski said.

Others may disagree with what the school has done, but say they won't abandon it.

"I don't believe that this was the right decision, but I'm not going to withdraw my support," said Nancy Walton-House, whose son Clay graduated from Eastside Catholic in 2001.

She said gay marriage is not an easy question for the church.

"As an older, practicing Catholic — I'm 71 — I know we're living through a time of great change," she said. "It's complex. I believe that the Catholic Church will come to the point where we will legitimize gay marriage. But it's going to take time."