Mark Zmuda, the former teacher and swim coach at a Seattle-area private school who was fired after publicizing his same-sex marriage, will be able to proceed with his lawsuit against the school, a court ruled this week.
The King County Superior Court of Seattle heard a motion to dismiss Zmuda’s lawsuit, but chose to reject the motion, the National Catholic Reporter reports.
Zmuda’s suit is against both the school that fired him (Eastside Catholic High School) and the archdiocese of Seattle. According the the NCR, the archdiocese has claimed it doesn’t have administrative control of the school, and was not involved in Zmuda’s firing. But documents filed by Zmuda allege that the school had originally told him his same-sex marriage was “none of their [the school’s] business,” and that he was only fired after Archbishop J. Peter Sartain met with school officials. Zmuda’s documents also allege that the firing decision was made by Sartain and not the school itself.
The major point of the case hinges on the exact nature of his position with the school.
Zmuda’s attorneys are arguing that his job as a teacher and swim coach were administrative, and disconnected from any religious activity. The school cites its employee handbook, which emphasizes that all employees are to follow Catholic teaching and doctrine in every aspect of their job. The Catholic Church does not condone same-sex marriage.
This is just one early step in what will almost certainly be a long, appeal-driven legal process, as the case could have major implications on future employment discrimination suits against religious institutions.