Catholic pupils back gay academic

The Associated PressDecember 21, 2013 

Students at a Seattle-area Catholic school are gaining national attention for their protest over the forced departure of a gay vice principal.

An online petition started by the senior class president of Eastside Catholic was the third fastest-growing U.S. petition on Friday, attracting around 15,000 signatures in day.

The petition was launched after Vice Principal Mark Zmuda resigned under pressure from school administrators after they learned he had married his same-sex partner.

Bradley Strode said the students’ ultimate goal is to change the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage.

“Realistically, what we can do is try to change the way the Catholic Church talks about gay marriage,” said Strode, 17, of Bellevue. “I don’t think it’s right for a man who was such a good administrator to be fired for something that had no effect on his performance.”

Strode said an on-campus protest Thursday was treated with respect by school staff. His argument is with the Seattle archdiocese and the broader church, he said.

Strode said he and other young members of his faith have been inspired by Pope Francis’ statements that the church should not judge homosexuals or interfere spiritually with the lives of gays and lesbians.

Eastside Catholic, located in Sammamish, has nearly 700 high school students and more than 250 middle school students. Strode said most of the school’s students joined the protest.

Eastside Catholic attorney and spokesman Mike Patterson said Zmuda signed a contract that stated he would follow the church’s official teachings, and gay marriage violates that contract.

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