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Gay former vice principal at Eastside Catholic files discrimination lawsuit

Mark Zmuda appears at a news conference in downtown Seattle announcing an employment discrimination lawsuit against Eastside Catholic High School and the Archdiocese of Seattle. (Tim Haeck/KIRO Radio)

A gay administrator fired from his job by Eastside Catholic School says his lawsuit is not about religion, it’s about employment discrimination.

Former vice principal Mark Zmuda filed suit against the school and Archdiocese of Seattle Friday. He was fired in December after the school learned he had married his partner in a legal same-sex wedding the previous summer.

“When the school learned of my marriage it was at first supportive. This made sense to me because of the non-discrimination policy the school had announced, Zmuda told reporters in Seattle. “Later, and I believe under pressure from the church, and in spite of its non-discrimination policy, the school changed its position 180 degrees.”

He said he’s had no luck finding another job.

“Now I’m collecting unemployment…I feel like a failure for something I feel like I do a pretty darn good job in,” he said at a news conference on Friday.

The Archdiocese of Seattle is seeking dismissal of the suit, arguing Eastside Catholic is separate from the archdiocese,that discrimination laws do not apply to a religious institution.

In a statement, a spokesman says “The Archdiocese did not direct, nor does it have the ability or authority to direct, employment decisions made by Eastside Catholic School, but the Archdiocese believes the school’s decision is consistent with Catholic teaching.”

Zmuda’s attorney, Richard Friedman rejected the school’s claim that it’s exempt from discrimination laws and cited a recent State Supreme Court decision in which the high court sided with a security guard, who claimed discrimination when he was fired by a religious-based hospital.

Zmuda’s dismissal prompted a firestorm of reaction from students and supporters who rallied outside the Sammamish school and in front of the archdiocese for weeks. Zmuda thanked his supporters, including teachers, students, parents and alumni, saying without their support, “this would be even more painful.”

Eastside Catholic president Sister Mary Tracy resigned following public outcry.

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