Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ken Bencomo, Gay Catholic Teacher Fired For Marrying, Gets Huge Student Support

Support for a Roman Catholic high school teacher fired for marrying his same-sex partner continued to grow Monday (Aug. 12) as the number of people signing an online petition topped 58,000 people.
Ken Bencomo taught English at St. Lucy's Priory High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendora for 17 years. He was fired last month after an article in the Southern California newspaper Inland Valley Daily Bulletin published a story and video about his wedding.
Bencomo, 45, and his husband, Christopher Persky, 32, were one of the first gay couples to marry on July 1, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.
His termination is not the first firing of a gay Catholic schoolteacher. In Columbus, Ohio, teacher Carla Hale was fired from a Catholic high school in April, after someone pointed out that she listed her lesbian partner's name in her mother's obituary.
And in January, Nicholas Coppola was stripped of his volunteer posts as a religious education teacher, lector and visitation minister at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Oceanside, N.Y., after he married his same-sex partner.
"I just believe it's a complete injustice," said Brittany Littleton, 23, who graduated from St. Lucy's in 2008, and launched the petition to reinstate Bencomo on the web-based platform, "I was really horrified and sickened and so ashamed of my school for making this decision."
An aspiring actress, Littleton also led an Aug. 8 protest at the school, which she says drew about 300 people.
The Catholic Church is opposed to gay marriage.
Bencomo, who many students affectionately refer to as "Mr. B.," was head of the English department, as well as extracurricular activities such as dance and yearbook. Students say most people at the school were aware of Bencomo's sexual orientation. They were shocked to hear of his firing through social-media platforms, such as Twitter.
According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, a growing number of Catholics support same-sex marriage. The March poll, which surveyed close to 500 Catholics, found that 54 percent of Catholic voters support same-sex marriage, while 38 percent oppose it.
St. Lucy's media consultant, Robert Alaniz, said the school stands firmly by its decision. Bencomo was not fired for being gay, Alaniz added, but for making his same-sex marriage a "public spectacle."
Bencomo's attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles would not comment on the firing, noting that St. Lucy's was not part of the archdiocese's school system. The private Catholic school is guided by the educational standards of the archdiocese, however.
Students said they would continue to press the school on the matter.
"There's been no sense of remorse or understanding of even what a hurtful and prejudicial decision this is," Littleton said. "So my plan really is just to keep going until they realize that. A lot of it really has to do with church doctrine, so this fight is going to have to continue on past St. Lucy's."


Coop said...

What is most bizarre is the firing of a woman for a mention of her partner's name. They could have been living a celibate life and adhering to church teachings for all anyone knows.

I don't think Francis is an adamant homophobe. He proposed civil unions as an alternative when he was a cardinal.

naturgesetz said...

Who alerted the media about this?

Anonymous said...

Probably any number of people who knew him, knew he was fired and why, and passed the word on to others. Remember, we live in a Twitter induced news cycle where everything anyone tweets, posts on Facebook, or Tumblr or Blogger is there to be seen and picked up by any number of news agencies, LGBT news sites, you name it. I doubt you could ever figure out a single person who alerted the media.
Peace <3

Anonymous said...

Just another example of most churches' inability to separate civil marriage from holy matrimony. I simply don't get why so many don't feel like everyone is entitled to the same civil rights as others. No one suggested the church support the teacher in his marriage, or asked them to bless it. And to call an announcement in the paper "a public spectacle" just shows how bigoted that guy is! Marriages are announced in the newspaper every day, whether civil or blessed by a church, and no one calls any others a public spectacle. And marriages held by a church still carry a civil component since the couple is not legally (ie, civilly) married unless the officiant, be he/she a priest, minister, pastor, whomever, is licensed by the state to perform civil marriages and he/she files the proper marriage license paperwork after the ceremony.

Churches should get out of the marriage business altogether. Want to be married? Go see a Justice of the Peace. Want to be wed in holy matrimony? Go to your church of choice. A Catholic priest offered that distinction in a blog post for the Archdiocese of Washington ( a while back, and it's one that makes so much sense that it's bound to fail.

As to Mr. Bencomo specifically, now that he knows exactly what his former employer thinks of him, I can't imagine that he'd want to go back. I'm sure there are plenty of secular private and public schools who would be happy to hire him with his level of experience and obvious love for the job to spend so much time in extracurriculars. Good luck to him!

Peace <3