Matrimonial bliss turned into an employment nightmare for a gay Catholic high school teacher in the suburban sprawl of Southern California after a local newspaper published photos of his big, gay wedding in July.
St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora sacked the teacher, Ken Bencomo, shortly after he tied the knot with his partner of some 10 years, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Bencomo, 45, and his much younger partner, 32-year-old Christopher Persky, were among the first gay couples who got officially hitched at the San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder’s Office after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision clearing the way for gay marriage in The Golden State.
Bencomo taught at the all-girls high school for 17 years. His lawyer Patrick McGarrigle, told the Times that school officials knew about his sexual orientation for roughly 10 of those years. Bencomo had brought Persky to school events and presented him as his partner at times during those years.
However, school officials were less than pleased when photos of Bencomo’s wedding ceremony appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. On July 12, Bencomo was told that the private school would not renew his contract for the school year beginning this fall. School officials expressly referred to the wedding, the photos and the attendant publicity.
In a statement, school officials called St. Lucy’s Priory “a community of faith for those who wish to express, practice and adhere to values in education based on the Roman Catholic tradition.”
School officials noted that employees have a contractual obligation to abide by those values in public.
“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,” the statement says, according to the Times.
Catholic Church doctrine maintains that homosexual desire isn’t a sin, but acting on that desire is, according to the website Catholic.com. As the Newman Center notes, the Church does not condone gay marriage.
McGarrigle called the decision “crushing” and “draconian,” according to the Times. He intimated that Bencomo may ultimately sue to get his job back.
Meanwhile, some of Bencomo’s former students had planned a protest march for Thursday. St. Lucy’s graduate Brittany Littleton, 23, told The Sun of San Bernadino she expected hundreds of people to attend.
“The most amazing outcome would be for St. Lucy’s to retract their decision and offer Ken his job back,” Littleton said.
“We love Mr. B and that he should still be there,” added Abigail O’Brien, 19.
An online petition seeking a retraction of Bencomo’s firing had generated over 9,000 signatures by late Thursday.