A lesbian drama teacher plans to wear her new engagement ring to work today at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammammish, Wash. — the same school that's seen massive student protests after pushing out a beloved vice principal following his marriage to another man.
Stephanie Merrow told Seattle radio station KIRO FM that she was inspired by the ongoing student protests over vice principal Mark Zmuda's ouster on December 20. Although Merrow does not personally know Zmuda, she said she's willing to test the school's hypocritical enforcement of its Catholic doctrine, which condemns homosexuality, sex outside of heterosexual marriage, and divorce, among other things.
"They're not firing people who are straight that are doing things that aren't Catholic," she told KIRO, according to Seattle's KING TV. "They're just firing Mark."
That's why Merrow plans to wear her newly acquired engagement ring from her female partner. "Either I'll be fired, or the students will say, 'right on,'" Merrow told KIRO. "It doesn't matter if I get fired. I want [students] to know that I think what they did was incredible and if anything changes, it's going to be because of this next generation."
Since Mark Zmuda left the school in December — school officials say he resigned, but Zmuda says he was fired — students have organized sit-ins and other protests demanding that the gay vice principal be reinstated.
Administrators at Eastside Catholic contend that Zmuda knowingly violated the terms of his contract when he married his longtime partner last summer, since Catholic doctrine forbids same-sex marriage and calls for gay people to be celibate.
Classes at Eastside Catholic resumed Monday, one day after the school hosted a faculty meeting to discuss the issue, reports KING. Although no teachers went on record as to the specifics of the meeting, a spokesperson told KING that the school is "not changing our position," citing the private, parochial school's First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. Because the school is a religious institution, it does not have to abide by state nondiscrimination laws, which in Washington include protections from being fired on the basis of one's sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the state's Human Rights Commission. But the Seattle Post-Intelligencernotes that Eastside Catholic's website claims the school "does not discriminate on a basis of an employee or applicant’s race, religion, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other status or condition protected by federal, state and local law."
Parents were informed of a complementary meeting to discuss the ongoing controversy, in a letter that also notified parents that any students who continued to demonstrate against Zmuda's ouster would be disciplined and sent home, according to KING. Students have planned a massive rally to in support of Zmuda, dubbed "Z-Day,"for January 31, according to the Post-Intelligencer.
On Monday, the chair of Eastside Catholic's board abruptly resigned, saying he needed to take a break, according to KING. School president Sister Mary Tracy said the former board member, Gene Colin, was very involved in Zmuda's ouster, but claimed that Colin's departure was not connected to the controversy over Zmuda.
Watch KING's report on Merrow's subtle act of defiance below: