10/24/2014

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Student protester: 'We are the generation of change'

Student protester: 'We are the generation of change'

SAMMAMISH, Wash. - When Eastside Catholic High School students began protesting outside their school nine days ago in support of their vice principal, who left after the Archdiocese learned he was married to his same-sex partner, they had no idea the impact their message would have on others.

Students organized another rally on Saturday morning in support of their former vice principal Mark Zmuda.

"Our main point is to make a change and show people love is love and everyone should be treated equally," said student Julia Burns.

A student at Eastside Catholic interviewed Zmuda and released an edited, one minute version of their interview to the media. During the interview, Zmuda said he was terminated.

"I asked if it was a breach of contract. They said 'No'," Zmuda said during the interview. "I asked if it had anything to do with my job performance or evaluations and they also said 'no'. They said it was because I was married to a man and violated Catholic teaching."

Archdiocese attorney Mike Patterson tells a different story. He said the former vice principal signed a contract to follow the teachings of the Catholic church, which does not include gay marriage. Patterson said Zmuda resigned during a meeting.

"I feel like being terminated is far different than being forced to resign and I don't know why that was such an issue for our school to come clean with," said Burns.

Students said they'll continue to show support for their former vice principal and others like him.

"If these students weren't out here waving signs and getting honks from cars, this would dissipate," said alumnus Corey Sinser. "The decision that was ultimately made is very frustrating in light of everything that Pope Francis has done to steer the narrative away from divisive social issues and back toward the gospel, which is a message of love and acceptance."

Students have also started a letter-writing campaign to the Pope, and gathered more than 29,000 signatures on an online petition that calls on the church to change its stance on same-sex marriage.

"We are the generation of change for this church," said Eastside Catholic High School student Alex Kovar. "If there's anybody who is going to bring change to the church it's going to be the young people you see here."

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