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Seattle-area Catholic school head quits in furor over gay educator's firing

By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - A Seattle-area Catholic school president, who dismissed the vice principal for violating religious doctrine by marrying his same-sex partner, has resigned in the ensuing furor, a school spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Sister Mary Tracy, president and CEO of Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, had forced the resignation of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, who was also a popular swimming coach, in December after learning that he had married his gay partner.

Zmuda's dismissal touched off a student campaign - a petition urging his reinstatement and demonstrations outside the offices of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The dismissal was the most recent in a series of incidents over gay and lesbian teachers at Catholic schools in the United States, where tensions have grown between the church orthodoxy and students, who take more liberal views.

Ken Bencomo, a teacher at a Catholic school in Southern California, was fired in July after marrying his same-sex partner. Then in December, a Catholic school teacher in Pennsylvania told the Philadelphia Inquirer and ABC local affiliate WPVI he was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his same-sex partner.

Tracy's resignation, submitted to the school's board of trustees on Monday, was effective immediately, according to a letter the board sent to parents on Tuesday.

"Sister Mary came to this decision after much prayer and reflection," the letter said. "For Sister Mary it was a difficult but necessary decision so that a new leader can be brought in to ensure the entire Eastside Catholic community is on a positive path forward."

The school, which has 935 students divided between middle school and high school, is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Seattle, which had supported Zmuda's dismissal, but is overseen by an independent board of directors.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state in November 2012. Zmuda was married in July.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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