A college friend of mine whom I haven’t seen or to whom I haven’t spoken in a while seems to be in the midst of some controversy. I’m struggling to know what to think or say on the matter.
The gist of the hype is that he, Mark Zmuda (a man in a same-sex marriage and a practicing Roman Catholic) is the subject of a Catholic school’s decision to fire him over his marriage to another man. Ultimately, they did not fire him, but he chose to resign. One may suspect he does not want a termination on his personnel file. Regardless, he and the school have severed ties and it is a disappointing turn of events.
As I remember, he was always a gentle and kind individual and I can only suspect that is still the case. An extended interview on a local Seattle, WA television broadcast is the setting in which he offers some discussion as to how he is doing since the separation of employment. He was well-liked and appreciated by others in our organizations (the marching band in which we met and the fraternity through which we served the music department).
The student and community outpouring for him is immense, both verbally and through written petition to the school and the diocese in which he worked. The state of Washington legalized same-sex marriage in the fall of 2012, so his marriage is recognized by the state. However, the Catholic diocese has different things to say about his union.
The concern of the community (locally and around the nation) for Zmuda is that his rights are being violated. The reality is that, as a school administrator, particularly in a parochial setting, he may have had to sign a contract or at least an acknowledgement of the policies and procedures of the organization under which he found employment. It isn’t a matter of gay rights; it’s probably a matter of contractual obligations and clauses. The outcry is over his marriage and a perceived violation.
While his situation is disappointing and I wish him well, I have to believe that he knowingly and willingly signed a document stating that he would comply with particular conditions of his employment. It would be no different if I were to fly off the handle on social media and flaunt my first amendment rights in front of my employer, or (worse), share my blog with my clientele during our therapeutic relationship. That would go against my professional requirements and my employer’s policies.
Now…. if Zmuda were in a public position and marriage to another man in a state that recognized his union, that would be a different situation altogether. Sadly, he is not. I am sure that he was a wonderful vice principal. Knowing him as I did, even sharing a road trip for a weekend in 1994 to visit my parents, it is no wonder the level of support he is receiving. Few people I know care about education and making a difference in the schools more than Zmuda.
I wish him well. Truly well. My fear is that the news media surrounding his separation of employment may not necessarily be in his favor. I pray that he finds sustainable employment soon and continues to demonstrate the grace he showed the news interviewer.