Hundreds of Students Rally for Fired Gay Teacher
After being fired for marrying his partner of many years, a southern California man garnered the support of hundreds of protesters in person and over 50 thousand petitions on change.org.
Ken Bencomo married Christopher Persky in San Bernardino, Calif. shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Propsition 8. Less than two weeks later, he was dismissed from his position of head of the English department and coach of the school dance squad at St. Lucy’s Priory High School, where he had taught for 17 years.
"It was in the papers," Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo’s attorney told CBS Los Angeles. "The school’s position was that it violated [school] teachings."
School administrators issued a statement that said, "St. Lucy’s wishes to reassure all in our community that upholding its mission to educate students in the tradition of the Catholic faith is of paramount importance."
But hundreds of students, former students and other community members rallied behind the teacher Thursday, reported foxnews.com, to show their personal support of the union and the educator himself.
"Everybody knew he was gay," said one student. "The faculty knew he was gay and it was never a problem."
"I... support the school," said a mother whose name was not credited. "As a parent of a child-and putting a child in a Catholic school-I expect them to follow in Catholic teachings!"
"While the school does not discriminate against teachers or other school employees based on their private lifestyle choices, public displays of behavior that are directly contrary to church teachings are inconsistent with these values," St. Lucy’s said in a statement.
"Under federal law, church-based schools can make hiring decisions for religious reasons, said David Ball, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s religious organizations subcommittee," reported foxnews.com. "But courts are still grappling with which kinds of instances are covered by this exemption to anti-discrimination laws."
Because of the news of other Catholic teachers losing their jobs, many teachers are afraid to come out, marry and even intercede when they witnessed homophobic bullying.
In spite of sentiments that Catholics oppose a gay lifestyles, protesters held signs that alluded to Pope Francis recent declaration about gay people.
"Who are we to judge," signs read with the word "we" decorated in the colors of the rainbow flag.
"Everyone loves Mr. B, said senior Malia McDowell, "so it’s just heartbreaking that he would get fired for marrying the person he loves."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.