S. Calif. Catholic School Teacher Fired After Marrying Partner
A gay Catholic schoolteacher from southern California says he was fired less than two weeks after he married his partner, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Ken Bencomo, 45, and Christopher Persky, 32, tied the knot last month and were one of the first same-sex couples to get married in the San Bernardino, Calif., area, after the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8. The couple’s ceremony gained some attention as a number of local newspapers reported on the men. Bencomo believes the exposure may have led to his termination.
Less than two weeks after the men got married Bencomo says officials from St. Lucy’s Priory High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Glendora, Calif., fired him.
"Their reasoning was that he had gotten married and it was in the papers. The school’s position was that it violated its teachings," Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo’s attorney told CBS Los Angeles.
The school’s administrators issued a statement about the firing and said, "We respect and protect privacy interests and, to be respectful of those involved, the school does not comment on confidential matters. 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."
Bencomo has been a teacher at St. Lucy’s for 17 years and was the head of the English department and coached the school’s dance squad.
"He never talked about his personal life to his students, but it’s something that students and faculty knew," former student, Abigail O’Brien, 19, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
McGarrigle said the school administrators knew Bencomo was gay and never had a problem renewing his contract until he married.
"He’s upset. He feels terrible for his students, who he cares much about. He enjoys teaching very much," McGarrigle told CBS Los Angeles. He added that Bencomo wants to resolve the matter outside of court but said it is "not clear" what the best resolution will be.
"St. Lucy’s has known of Mr. Bencomo’s orientation for years," McGarrigle told the Tribune. "Administrators had been introduced to his partner in the past, so the suggestion that Ken’s orientation is a surprise or that his lifestyle somehow violated doctrine is at odds with the school’s knowledge and what seemed to be acceptance of him until most recently."
According to both CBS Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, an online petition has been created in order to get Bencomo’s job back and has thousands of signatures.
Bencomo’s firing comes just after a study was released this week that found LGBT educators are less likely to confront homophobia in their schools for fear of drawing attention to themselves and putting their careers at risk.
A similar incident occurred in May when Carla hale, an out physical education Catholic high school teacher from Ohio, was fired when she was outed after her partner’s name appeared in her partner’s mother’s obituary, causing someone to complain to school officials.