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Online petition seeks to save gay teacher's job

August 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A teacher at a Catholic school in Glendora has reportedly been fired for marrying his longtime partner. Thousands of people have already signed an online petition protesting his dismissal.

For Ken Bencomo and Christopher Persky, the day they wed was one the two had been waiting years for. The couple wed shortly after the Supreme Court ruling on Prop. 8, allowing for same-sex marriages in California. At the time of their nuptials, persky spoke to a local paper about it.

But while California recognized the marriage, Bencomo's employer did not. The 45-year-old was fired from his teaching job at St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora.

"He and his partner were married on July 1st. Approximately 10 days later, the school's assistant principal called him in and terminated him because he had married his life partner," said Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo's attorney.

Bencomo had taught at the all-girls Catholic high school for 17 years as head of the English department, yearbook and dance squad.

The school released a statement Thursday afternoon:

"St. Lucy's Priory High School is a Benedictine school for those who strive to develop personal and academic excellence. St. Lucy's is a community of faith for those who wish to express, practice and adhere to values in education based on the Roman Catholic tradition. 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. These values are incorporated into the contractual obligations of each of our instructors and other employees."

The firing comes just as Pope Francis said "Who am I to judge?" in reference to gay priests, though it was not an endorsement of gay marriage.

Still, former student Brittany Littleton believes it's a move in the right direction. She began an online petition in an effort to get Bencomo's job back.

"That's part of what we're trying to do," said Littleton. "We want it to change. We think that it's injustice. And just because you use religion to justify prejudice doesn't mean it's not prejudice."

Supporters of Bencomo say they will gather on August 8 for a peaceful protest in the hopes of sending a message to school administrators to reinstate the beloved teacher.


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