Mark Zmuda, the Catholic school vice principal who was fired in December for marrying his same-sex partner, is bringing a wrongful-termination suit against the school and the Catholic archdiocese of Seattle.
According to the suit, the archdiocese wrongfully interfered with Zmuda’s relationship with his employer. It also alleges “breach of contract, wrongful termination, violation of public policy, as well as violation of the state’s consumer-protection and anti-discrimination laws.”
At the time of his dismissal, school administrators said that by marrying a man, Zmuda had violated Catholic doctrine, which he had agreed to uphold when he accepted the job. Zmuda says in the suit that his work was administrative and “wholly unrelated to any religious practice or activity.” He also says Eastside Catholic had pledged not to discriminate against employees on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation. He seeks compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, and harm to his reputation.
A recent Washington Supreme Court ruling allows for antidiscrimination suits against religious nonprofit institutions if an employee’s job was unrelated to religion. Otherwise, such institutions in Washington are generally exempt from state antidiscrimination laws.
Eastside Catholic officials plan to seek dismissal of Zmuda’s suit, claiming in a written response, “This Court’s interference in Eastside Catholic’s decision on whether to employ a person married to someone of the same sex, a violation of Catholic doctrine, would encroach on Eastside Catholic’s ability to manage its internal affairs,” the Times reports.
If Zmuda wins, this could become a model case for other LGBT folks who get fired from jobs at religious institutions, something that happens in every corner of the country and likewise across the world. It’s definitely a pro that Washington’s antidiscrimination law includes this religious caveat, which could be the secret to him winning the case and, if we’re dreaming, other schools potentially reconsidering their discriminatory policies. Support Mr. Z!