Catholic Church

Standing Together To Protect LGBTQ Catholic Church Faculty

by Zeena Rivera

homeStand with Catholic high school students this Friday, January 31st for ‘Z-Day‘ to raise awareness for LGBTQ faculty being fired within the Catholic Church by wearing orange and spreading #ZDAY on social media.

About a month ago, news broke out from a neighboring Catholic high school that their gay Vice Principal had been fired for marrying his husband. There was a lot of confusion, but the consensus among students was that we were all pretty angry, unhappy, and disappointed about the situation.

After the announcement of Mr. Zmuda’s firing, fellow students of mine participated in a sit in on December 19th to protest. It was here where a friend remarked, “Posters and pictures? Like that’s going to change anything.”

It’s nearing the end of January now, and there has been a great amount of progress. A coalition comprising of social activists, students, and alumni have come together.

We are working for the equality of LGBTQ Catholic educators and employees.

Now where am I coming from? I don’t go to Eastside Catholic. Why am I dedicating my time to fight for a man who I don’t know and lost his job because of a contract he willingly signed?

Because it is the right thing to do.

I am a student at Holy Names Academy and, for the past four years, I have immersed myself in LGBTQ social justice. I have spoken out for getting Gay-Straight Alliances in Catholic schools. I have also started Be! Magazine, an online LGBTQ youth magazine written by and for LGBTQ youth and allies to promote self-expression.

I am queer—I am queer like the sky is blue and the grass is green.

I stand up for my community because what has happened is unjust.

What has happened to Mark Zmuda and dozens of other LGBTQ Catholic schoolteachers can happen to me in my future.

Maybe I won’t work in the Catholic Church and maybe I won’t become a teacher, but, even today, it is still a real threat that my future job security will be threatened because I am queer. Policies are changing, but you can still be fired for being LGBTQ in 29 states.

That doesn’t even take into account that religious institutions will essentially always be free to discriminate on such basis. I deserve to have a choice in my future, and I should not be limited just because of my sexuality.

I am a student—I am young and naïve, but that doesn’t mean that I am helpless.

In fact, it’s sometimes helpful being a little green behind the ears. It’s really useful having the school-day mantra of “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” still fresh in your heart when a lot of people are telling you “no”.

I am Catholic. By May, I’ll have gone to Catholic schools for 13 years and there’s a good chance that I’ll be spending another 4 years in a Catholic school. I go to Mass every Sunday, work at a Catholic food bank during the summer, and am in a leadership position in my school’s campus ministry.

It would be a lie to say that my moral compass hasn’t been touched by Catholic virtues.

Furthermore, in my experience as a Catholic school student in Seattle, I know that my religion classes never taught discrimination. I was taught to live a loving life. I have learned that you’re supposed to stand up in solidarity and help create positive action when someone is being treated unfairly. We’re supposed to protect the rights and dignity of workers, not being the ones taking them away.

Yes, Zmuda signed that contract willingly, but was it in line with Christ teachings that such a flawed document was allowed to see the light of day?

The state of the Catholic Church right now isn’t great.

There are hundreds of years of misogyny, sexism, and discrimination built-in the very pillars that St. Peter’s stands on.

Maybe I’m too optimistic in believing that there can be an overall change within the Church to really fully embrace all congregants—LGBTQ people to name a few. Maybe it’s a lost cause to try separating Jesus’ greater message of love from Catholicism’s dark history. There’s an unsettling dichotomy between my classroom and what church leaders want to do.

Of course, as I have said, I’m also a student and I am young. I don’t know any better but to try to make a change in our world. It’s so simple for me to understand that every life has inherent worth and dignity and that it was wrong to fire Zmuda.

I am not sinful for being queer; I am simply made by God. Our differences have the power to divide and destroy, but they also have the power to highlight our clear need for love.

What I am completely certain on is this: the homophobia within the Catholic Church serves no one.

Sister Mary Tracy, the President of Eastside Catholic, and the Chair of the Board at Eastside Catholic has stepped down. Mark Zmuda is still without a job for marrying the person he loves along with at least a half a dozen other teachers around the country in the past year.

People are losing their jobs, students are losing educators that care about them, and, all in all, if anything, these archaic, bigoted decisions are hurting the students—the future of this world and of this church.

In these past weeks, people from all sorts of backgrounds have come together to speak out about the injustice of firing Mark Zmuda because of his need to have a tangible, legal sign of love for his husband. For those who have stood up for mercy, justice, and love: that is the Church that I believe in.

Photo via Facebook

Comments (4)


Thank you for what you’ve written. It is readily apparent that it comes from a deep sense of self that you write so eloquently about these issues.
I’ll pull the curtain back a bit and reveal myself so that you know where I’m coming from: I left my beloved Catholic faith in July 2010 after I could no longer reconcile my involvement with an institution that knowingly hides paedophile clergy and nuns and lies about it. This has been ongoing since the 4th century (please look this up…
I agree with so much of what you’ve written. Your support of Mr. Z is, indeed, “the right thing to do”. When I was Catholic, I was not just a homophobe. I hated gays. I felt justified in wanting them to die. *All* of them…because I “knew” that “God was on my side”. I hadn’t read the Bible, but I was sure that Scripture supported me (it does in Leviticus and elsewhere…and so does the Catechisms of the Catholic Church (#2357, to be precise…)).
Since I am no longer religious, I no longer hate gays, or any other beings, for that matter. I have since read the Bible, and the Qur’an, and other religious texts.
I see no reason for you to change. Be yourself. Love yourself. If you wish to change your Church, I wish you well. Mr. Z is, I’m sure, proud to have people like you on his side. And me.


You go girl! Love this!!
You go girl! Love this!!

don roy

not just teachers. you are
not just teachers. you are ignoring another large group…those of us who have dedicated our careers in serving the church through music. organists, choir directors etc etc liove in constant fear that a new pastor will get rid of them for all sorts of reasons and many…including me…have been fired and blacklisted precisely because of a discovered sexual orientation. there have even been celibate lay people who have also been fired….me for one.

Michael Barrett Miller

Very well said…
Very well said…

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