SEATTLE — About 80 people rallied in front of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle on Saturday to show support for Mark Zmuda, the popular Eastside Catholic High School vice principal and swim coach who was forced to resign last month after officials found out he had married his male partner.
It was the latest in a series of demonstrations led by students and community groups to draw attention to Zmuda's case.
"We want to make sure that no more teachers get fired from their job because they got married," co-organizer Shaun Knittel told the crowd of area students and adults gathered by the archdiocese's headquarters in the First Hill neighborhood.
Demonstrators held signs and chanted slogans such as "Love always wins," "Keep Mr. Z" and "God is Love," turning what started as a personnel decision at one school into a rallying cry for changes in the church's stance on gay and lesbian issues, including same-sex marriage.
One of the signs featured Pope Francis' now-famous remark, "If someone is gay … who am I to judge?"
Eastside Catholic has previously said that Zmuda's same-sex marriage violates the church's teachings he agreed to abide by in his employment contract. When his marriage came to light, he reportedly was asked to resign.
Eastside Catholic Class of 2006 graduate Corey Sinser credits a generational shift within the church on gay rights as a reason for the support of Zmuda.
"Our generation just doesn't worry about issues of sexuality" when it comes to matters of employment and treatment in society, Sinser said. "It just really isn't on the table."
One of the speakers at the demonstration, Zeena Rivera, a senior at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, said that when she heard about Zmuda’s dismissal, it struck a chord.
“I’m Catholic. I’m a student at a Catholic high school, and I’m queer. It was like seeing a future that I really didn’t want to see,” she said.
Protest organizers are calling for supporters of Zmuda nationwide to wear orange, a school color at Eastside Catholic, on Jan. 31 to show solidarity with the former vice principal on what they are billing as “Z Day.”