Mark Zmuda, 38, a well-liked swim coach and vice principal of Eastside’s middle and high schools, said the school’s president told him he could keep his job if he divorced his husband of five months and had a commitment ceremony with his partner.
The story of Zmuda’s termination was reported globally, triggered sit-ins by students at Eastside high school and other area Catholic schools and remains the subject of ongoing protests and rallies by students hoping to change the church’s position on same-sex marriage.
The Catholic church also does not recognize divorce.
“Apparently the fact that I have a same-sex partner and (am) having a same-sex marriage . . . they are against that,” Zmuda said during the 16-minute interview conducted by Catrina Crittenden, one of his former students.
“But I also thought another teaching they were against was divorce. I’m a little shocked that was even on the table to have me keep my job. They also offered for me to have a commitment ceremony if I were willing to get a divorce.”
On the video, Zmuda also said he did not resign but was terminated, contradicting a persistent claim by the school and specifically by its attorney.
Contacted on Sunday, Eastside’s President Sister Mary Tracy referred all calls to that attorney, Mike Patterson, who called Zmuda’s statement about the divorce offer untrue.
Patterson said Tracy raised the idea of divorce with Zmuda only as a hypothetical question — along the lines of “would you consider a divorce . . . I don’t even know if that would work.”
She did so, he said, without legal counsel, and Zmuda rejected it as not something he’d consider.
Patterson said he was not present during the conversation between Tracy and Zmuda and that the issue was never raised in a conversation he had with Zmuda.
He dismissed any further questions on the matter, including the commitment ceremony claims, before hanging up.