Gay catholic school vice principal: I was told to divorce husband if I wanted to keep job

Mark-Zmuda

Mark Zmuda

The vice principal of a Catholic high school in Washington state who was reportedly dismissed after administrators learned he had married his same-sex partner is speaking out about the experience, saying his superiors gave him the option of divorcing his husband if he wanted to keep his job, The Huffington Post reported.

Mark Zmuda, who previously served as vice principal at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammammish, Wash., told King 5 News that School President Sister Mary Tracy told him he wouldn’t have to resign if he divorced his husband Dana Jergens. Zmuda and Jergens tied the knot in July 2013, roughly seven months after same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state.

“Apparently, the fact that I have a same-sex partner, they’re against that,” Zmuda is quoted as saying. “But I also thought a teaching they were against was divorce.”

An Associated Press report cites school attorney Mike Patterson who said that the vice principal agreed “in two December conversations” that he was resigning from the job, not being fired. The divorce suggestion, he said, was purely hypothetical.

After news of Zmuda’s resignation made national headlines last month, Eastside Catholic students began rallying in support of their former vice principal. Many participated in an on-campus sit-in on Dec. 19, while others took to social media in Zmuda’s defense.

King 5 cites a letter sent home to parents of Eastside Catholic High students which said that anyone involved in campus protests over Zmuda’s departure when classes resumed Jan. 6 would be sent home.

Still, founders of a Facebook page in support of Zmuda (which currently has over 1,500 followers) announced Jan. 6 that Sister Mary Tracy has agreed to meet with students to discuss to issue.

Watch the video here:

 

—  Steve Ramos

Putting our children at risk

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

Child sexual abuse a concern for everyone, especially LGBT parents

Most people would probably agree there is no resource that a society cherishes more than its children. So it is hard to fathom how sexual predators manage with such apparent ease to carry out horrendous, undetected assaults on children practically under the noses of their families and others who are charged with their protection.

As horrific as the crime of child sexual abuse is, there are no firm estimates of its prevalence because it often goes undetected and is seriously underreported, according to agencies that study child abuse.

Less than 100,000 crimes of sexual abuse are reported each year because children fear telling anyone, and adults who become aware of the activity are often reluctant to contact law enforcement agencies, even though there is usually a legal requirement to do so.

With so many LGBT households now raising children, it is obviously vital that all parents be aware of the tactics used by sexual predators to seduce children without arousing the suspicion of their families, and aware of the symptoms victims of child sexual abuse exhibit.

The critical need for sustained intervention into child sexual abuse recently gained national attention following a grand jury’s indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight victims over a 15-year period. The victims reportedly came into contact with the now 67-year-old, married Sandusky in connection with the Second Mile, a children’s charity the former football coach founded.

Although Sandusky denied, this week in an NBC interview, engaging in any type of sexual activity with the pre-pubescent boys, he acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with them after exercise. He also admitted hugging young boys and putting his hand on their legs when they sat next to him.

His admissions shocked viewers and confirmed in many minds what was already suspected — Sandusky is most likely a pedophile that has taken advantage of young boys with the unwitting complicity of their families.

It is a devastating scandal that will likely rival the one that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago when it became known that untold numbers of Catholic Church priests sexually abused young boys and violated the trust of their families.

If the charges against Sandusky are true, the accounts by the victims portray a classic pattern of enticement and betrayal practiced by the former football coach in his pursuit of the young boys. Likewise, the lack of action by those who knew about Sandusky’s alleged criminal activity parallel what often happens when the abuser commands power and respect in a community.

Much of the difficulty in combating child sexual abuse can be attributed to its relative youth in terms of public awareness about the crime. The first studies on the molestation of children began in the 1920s, and the first estimate of the prevalence of the crime was reported in 1948.

In 1974 the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect was founded, and the Child Abuse and Treatment Act was created. Since then, awareness about the problem has grown dramatically, and much more is known about deterring the crime and assisting victims of it.

Children’s advocates have identified “red flags” to help parents and others protect children from sexual predators. They warn parents to be wary of someone who wants to spend more time with their children than they do, who attempts to be alone with a child, who frequently seeks physical closeness to a child such as hugging or touching, who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child, who seems to prefer the company of children to people their own age, who lacks boundaries, who regularly offers to babysit,who often gives presents or  money to children, who frequently walks in on children in bathrooms or locker rooms, who frequents parks where children gather, who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s appearance or who likes to photograph children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse in children include a fear of people, places or activities, reluctance to undress, disturbed sleep, mood swings, excessive crying, fear of being touched, loss of appetite, a drastic change in school performance, bizarre themes in drawing, sexually acting out on other children, advanced sexual knowledge, use of new words for private body parts and a reversion to old behavior such as bedwetting or thumb sucking.

Aside from the moral responsibility to protect children and other weaker members of society that all people share, it is essential to intervene in child sexual abuse because of the long-lasting psychological damage it usually causes. The problems can include feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and distorted views of sexuality.

Also, victims of child sexual abuse tend to become sexual predators as adults, making it a crime that begets more crime.

The Sandusky scandal will undoubtedly lead to devastating repercussions for Penn State, for the Second Mile charity with which the former football coach is no longer affiliated and for law enforcement and university officials who became aware of concerns about the former football coach’s activities and failed to act on them.

But the real tragedy — if the allegations are true — will be the lasting impact upon the victims.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.        

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Great Spaces: Not-so-secret gardens

Partners Tom Lloyd-Boyd and Patrick Boyd-Lloyd, below, are putting Dallas on the map for impressive gardens like this green masterpiece at the Oak Cliff home of Ken Row and Sergio Remirez.

Three gay gardens make elite 5 highlighted in this year’s Garden Conservancy Tour

By Jef Tingley

Some people travel the U.S. looking for historic landmarks or quirky tourist traps like “the world’s biggest ball of twine,” but for Patrick Boyd-Lloyd, along with husband Tom Lloyd-Boyd, it’s the pursuit of the perfect petunia that fuels their vacations. To be more specific: the perfect garden. And as a result of their love of landscape, Dallas is now on the national garden circuit radar.

“We’ve been to [garden] tours in Upstate New York (seeing a couple of gardens owned by people who worked for Martha Stewart Living was a huge highlight), California, and, of course several, in Texas,” says Boyd-Lloyd. “This year, we’re going to Portland, Oregon and Brentwood/Santa Monica, California for a [tour] that features the garden of Julie Newmar of Catwoman fame.”

Mike Munsterman’s oasis, above, also includes a custom-built chicken coop. Row and Ramirez also included architectural details such as this fountain.

Through this green-thumb obsession, the Garden Conservancy was made aware to add Dallas to its list of Open Days Program. As Boyd-Lloyd tells it, “after returning from a Sonoma, California tour [in 2008], I contacted the Garden Conservancy to ask why Dallas wasn’t represented and walked right into being chairperson — open mouth and insert garden boot.”

This year marks his third time chairing the event.

In his role, Boyd-Lloyd helps to select the gardens that will be featured on the tour which, according to the organization’s website has, “unlocked the gates to hundreds of America’s very best private gardens.” It also raises awareness and finances to protect and maintain some of America’s best-loved historic properties. Boyd-Lloyd credits his passion for gardening and his 15-year history in the landscape design industry in helping him to find some of North Texas’ best-hidden treasures for Open Days.

“I look for gardens that are not ego-statements, but ones that the homeowners are actually a part of [and who] really get their own hands digging in the dirt. The point of the tour, to me, is to show the average homeowner that there are really interesting ideas and plants out there,” he says. “With our dramatic climate changes and alkaline, rocky and gumbo soils, this part of Texas is not an easy place to garden, but with a bit of knowledge and patience one can have a really special garden for their home.”

The May 21 Open Days Tour is a self-led experience through five gardens throughout DFW. This year, three of the gardens belong to members of the LGBT community.

The leadoff garden is located in Kessler Park and owned by Ken Row and Sergio Ramirez. It features terraced areas with views of the surrounding hills and trees, stone staircases, ponds and outdoor living spaces. According to Boyd-Lloyd, it’s especially known for its glorious display of hydrangeas and roses. Also in Oak Cliff does horticulturist Mike Munsterman own an impressive garden. In addition to the stunning flora, the “must-see” of this stop is a custom chicken coup built by Munsterman and his partner.

The Blue Lotus Gardens in East Dallas, owned by a husband and wife team in the landscape business, is a balance of arid plants like yuccas and agaves in one space countered by a water garden filled with Lotus flowers in another. The grounds also include honeybee hives and a turtle sanctuary.

Near Knox-Henderson, Alan Rister and partner Greg Armstrong have created an English-inspired garden mixed with Texas-native and adapted plants that play a large role in the landscape. The owners do all the planting and organic maintenance themselves.

The final stop on the tour is in Preston Hollow at the garden of Sharolyn and Stan Herndon. Here, the couple has transformed an unused backyard pool into a koi pond with multiple rills and streams.

But whether attending Open Days or just browsing at your favorite nursery, Boyd-Lloyd says it’s easy for anyone to get involved in gardening in North Texas. “Join a local garden club, hire a professional for a consultation, read books…[or] just start digging!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dignity Dallas calls results of study encouraging

Research shows Catholics are more accepting of the LGBT community than the general population

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

In March, the Public Religion Research Institute released a comprehensive study on the attitude of Catholics on rights for gays and lesbians, and the results were clear: American Catholics are more supportive of civil rights for the LGBT community than the general population.

Nearly three quarters favor employment non-discrimination. Two-thirds believe gays and lesbians should serve openly in the military. Six in 10 think gays should be able to adopt.

Possibly the most surprising statistic was that 63 percent of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage. That’s 10 percent higher than the population in general.

Joseph Bordelon, president of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity Dallas, called those results very encouraging.

“Often we only hear what the bishops say,” he said, noting that the Catholic Church’s official stance is much more anti-gay.

Bordelon said that the survey should have a very positive effect on his group.

“We can incorporate our religion and sexuality,” and find acceptance among other Catholics, he said.

There is a disconnect, Bordelon said, between the hierarchy and the laity. He cited the example of Chicago Cardinal Francis George who recently said that God doesn’t love gays and lesbians.

Before Vatican 2, Bordelon said that Catholics were expected to “pray, pay, obey.”

Now Catholics study more.

“Catholics got to know the tenets of our faith and the why behind those tenets,” he said. “You can’t corral us back anymore.”

Dallas Dignity has been around at least 35 years. The group, whose slogan is “The traditions you love and the acceptance you deserve,” is not welcome to worship in a Catholic Church by order of the Vatican. So they meet at Cathedral of Hope on Sundays at 6 p.m.

But Bordelon said individual members retain ties to their local parishes.

The study result that Bordelon said surprised him the most was that a majority of Catholics do not believe that sexual relations between two men or two women is a sin.

“That one surprised me because the church teaches that sex should be for one thing — procreation,” he said.

But the study found that most heterosexual Catholics don’t believe or practice that in their own lives and possibly translate that to mean the church is wrong in its teachings on homosexuality as well.

Jon Garinn is a former pastor of Dignity Dallas and he agreed that the results of the survey are good. But while he thought this was very positive for LGBT Catholics, he said Dignity might not be the beneficiary.

“Catholics in the United States have always been very independent,” he said.

He said that’s why the church may be against reproductive rights but they can’t expect Nancy Pelosi, who is Catholic, to change laws regarding abortion.

“We’re a lot more tolerant of other viewpoints,” he said.

But Dignity was intended to be a means to an end, Garinn said. The goal was always to fully incorporate LGBT Catholics into the life of the church. As the Catholic Church grows more comfortable with their LGBT members, Garinn believes they will be incorporated into parish life.

“Then all Catholics will be the beneficiary,” he said.

—  John Wright

SA Catholic leaders shut down gay Mass

Catholic leaders in San Antonio recently shut down a Mass offered to gays and lesbians for the last 15 years, citing a conflict with church teaching, according to The San Antonio Express-News:

Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú, the interim head of the archdiocese, told church officials the Mass conflicted with Catholic teaching because it was offered for the gay Catholic advocacy group, Dignity San Antonio. Part of the national organization, DignityUSA, it seeks the acceptance of alternative lifestyles in the Catholic Church.

“The Mass … continues to send conflicting messages about the Church’s official teaching concerning the proper celebration of the Eucharist and living an active homosexual lifestyle,” Cantú wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to the St. Ann pastor, Father John Restrepo.

Dignity officials say they will continue the mass at another location. They also say they’ll appeal the decision to the new head of the archdiocese who will take over next month.

—  John Wright

Gramick: Equality is a Catholic value

Nun began working toward acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church in 1971

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo
SOCIAL JUSTICE | Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo spoke to a group of Metroplex Catholics at Resource Center Dallas on Aug. 11. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

In 1971, Sister Jeannine Gramick became friendly with a gay man while she was working on her doctorate in mathematics education.

“Sister, what is the Catholic Church doing for gays and lesbians?” he asked her.

She realized the answer was, “Very little.”

That’s when Gramick began working on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church and has since dedicated her career to helping gays and lesbians.

In 1977, Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry, a Catholic social justice center working for the reconciliation of lesbian and gay people and the church. She founded several local Dignity groups and has served on the board of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“I do this because I believe this is what God is calling me to do,” said Gramick, who was in Dallas this week for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious with Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry.

DeBernardo said he came of age after Vatican 2 in the social justice tradition of the church. He said what’s more important isn’t someone’s sexual orientation but that people are not being treated equally.

New Ways helps parishes that want to become more gay friendly and helps them develop strategies to do that.

Gramick said that since she began her work, a number of bishops in the United States have supported her. But more and more conservative members of the clergy have been appointed to higher positions since she first took her vows.

In 1999, the Vatican prohibited her from doing pastoral work with gays and lesbians and the next year she was ordered to stop speaking about homosexuality and about Rome’s investigation into her work.

She refused to be muzzled and continued working tirelessly.

The head of her order was worried that Gramick faced excommunication. She suggested they travel to the tomb of the founder of their order in Munich, Germany, to pray for divine intervention.

They flew from Baltimore to Rome where they changed planes for Munich. On the plane from Rome, she sat next to a man she thought might have been a priest.

That’s where the divine intervention happened.

She interrupted him to introduce herself.

“I’m a nun,” she said and asked if he was with the church.

The man introduced himself as Cardinal Ratzinger. When she told him her name, he joked that he had known her for 20 years,meaning they had a thick file on her and had been investigating her for that long.

Before they landed, the head of her order told the cardinal her concern that Sister Jeannine would be excommunicated.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Gramick said the future Pope Benedict told her. “It’s not that level of doctrine.”

Gramick said that the work of New Ways Ministry is not considered an excommunicatable matter. She noted that despite the Vatican’s position on LGBT issues, no one has been excommunicated for working on gay and lesbian social justice issues.

Although Gramick disagrees with the pope’s position on a number of issues and believes the Vatican still doesn’t understand the impact pedophile priests have had on so many lives, she is gracious in describing him.

She recalls him as a friendly, spiritual, holy man.

“He was praying when I interrupted him,” she said. “He has a good sense of humor.”

She said that meeting him put a human face on the institution.

DeBernardo explained the work of New Ways Ministry. Helping parishes become more supportive of gay and lesbian Catholics is a major focus of the organization. He suggested a number of ways parishes can become more supportive.

“The oppression runs the gamut from silence to violence,” said DeBernardo. “Just breaking the silence is a good way.”

He suggests starting support groups in churches. Some churches have integrated gays and lesbians into their education programs.

“If you’re having a discussion on sexuality, you have to mention homosexuality,” he said. “You can’t ignore it anymore. It’s an important part of the current discussion on sexuality.”

Recognizing the gifts gay and lesbian members bring is another important step. One parish, he said, recognizes a lesbian mom or the mother of a lesbian every Mother’s Day.

He said his approach is not “one size fits all.” What works in one area of the country won’t work elsewhere. What works in one church won’t work in a neighboring parish.

In Maryland, New Ways is experimenting with a new program targeting legislators as well as Catholic grassroots voters.

DeBernardo said support of gay and lesbian issues is strong among the grassroots and among middle managers in the church.

“But bishops get the media,” he said.

The project, that they will bring to other states debating same-sex marriage legislation or other equality laws, helps educate legislators that they will not lose Catholic votes by voting in favor of social justice.

Gramick said that there is a disconnect between the church hierarchy and Catholics in the pews.

She spoke at Resource Center Dallas on Wednesday, Aug. 11, to a group of Catholics from around the Metroplex interested in her work.
A teacher who attended said she was afraid she would lose her job if she helped gay students who came out to her.

Gramick suggested the teacher help her students by teaching the full range of Catholic theologies. While the hierarchy teaches one thing, a vast majority of Catholic writers and theologians teach something else, Gramick said.

A parent of a gay son wanted to know how to help others in her parish and in other parishes around the diocese.

“Baby steps,” DeBernardo suggested.

He said the church puts a strong emphasis on family.

“Catholics are so much about keeping families together and when you have large families, you’ll have gays and lesbians in your family,” he said.

“Church leaders think a lot about sex,” he said. “For people in the pews, while sex is important, they don’t think of it as the primary way of interpreting the world. People know that sex is only one part of their lives.”

Gramick estimated that as many as half of all priests are gay. She said that the Catholics in the pews, however, separate the pedophile priests scandal from homosexuality.

Gramick said that when the scandal first erupted, there was a lot of confusion between sexual abuse and gay priests.

She said that people came to church because they liked their priest and didn’t care about his sexual orientation.

Congregations are showing their independence on the issue, Gramick and DeBernardo said.

One church in Greenwich Village has marched in the New York gay Pride parade for years. This year, New York’s new archbishop told them they could not carry their church’s banner in the parade.

Instead they all wore T-shirts with their church’s logo and carried a blank banner.

“They were on CNN. That was great publicity for the church that was being gay friendly,” Gramick said. “Not so good for the archbishop.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gramick and DeBernardo to speak at Resource Center tonight

Francis DeBernardo and Sr. Jeannine Gramick

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo with New Ways Ministries will speak at Resource Center Dallas tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Gramick is a co-founder of New Ways Ministries, a Catholic organization which has focused on supporting gay and lesbian rights since the 1970s. DeBernardo has worked with New Ways for about 15 years.

They’re warm, entertaining, supportive allies. They will discuss the movement for equality for LGBT people in society and the Catholic Church.

In an interview with Dallas Voice that will appear in this week’s paper, Gramick said she began her work on behalf of the gay and lesbian community in 1971 after befriending a gay man. Despite orders from the Vatican to end her work and not speak publicly about gay and lesbian issues, she continues working tirelessly on behalf of the community.

Resource Center Dallas is located at 2701 Reagan St.

—  David Taffet

Marriage battle continues in Latin America, with more wins for our side

The Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week that a Mexico City law, passed by legislators there earlier this year, is constitutional. The ruling came in a challenge to the new law pressed mainy by the country’s Roman Catholic religious leaders.

In another victory for LGBT civil rights, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled yesterday (Tuesday) that same-sex marriages performed legally in Mexico City must be legally recognized throughout the country, even though other Mexican states have not legalized gay marriage.

Mexico’s Supreme Court was expected to rule Thursday on an appeal of another law — passed by the Mexico City Legislature the same day that lawmakers legalized gay marriage there — that gives same-sex couples the right to adopt.

And today comes word that the Supreme Court of Costa Rica has ruled that a referendum that had been set to go to voters on Dec. 5 and that would have banned legal recognition of same-sex civil unions is unconstitutional.

“Minority rights that are derived from claims against the majority cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed,” the court said in a statement, according to Inquirer.net.

The referendum, again pushed by the Catholic Church, had come in response to draft legislation, introduced in 2008, that would give Costa Rican gays and lesbians access to legal civil unions that would carry some of the legal rights of marriage, including inheritance, health benefits and the right to hospital visitation in the event of injury or illness. The legislation has been stalled since it was introduced.

—  admin

What's Brewing: 5/13/10

1. An 8-year-old won’t be entering third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Massachusetts, after the Catholic school withdrew its acceptance of the boy because he has two lesbian moms, The Associated Press reports. It’s at least the second time in recent months that a Catholic school in the U.S. has rejected a student based on gay parents. “I’m accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman,” the mother said. “But I didn’t expect it against my child.” In somewhat related news, 81 percent of respondents in Dallas Voice’s weekly online poll say private businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against LGBT people. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

2.George “Rentboy” Rekers tells Christianity Today that he has confessed to both the Lord and his family for his sins. However, in what would appear to be a minor oversight, his confession didn’t include depraved, adulterous sex with a 20-year-old male prostitute or spending his entire life as a closeted, anti-gay hypocrite. “I confessed to the Lord and to my family that I was unwise and wrong to hire this travel assistant after knowing him only one month before the trip and not knowing whether he was more than a person raised in a Christian home,” Rekers said. “I also confessed to the Lord and to my family the sin of thereby putting myself into a vulnerable situation where I tragically became subject to false allegations.”

3. Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, says the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would be unnecessary if gays would simply stop wearing “their sexuality on their sleeve” at work. ‘Nuff said.

—  John Wright

Catholic Charities drops D.C. spousal benefits

Catholic Charities

This is the first high-profile instance of heterosexuals losing their special rights.

A group of straight people can now experience and report on the hardships they endure when their families are not recognized. Interesting that it’s Catholic Charities not recognizing those families, some that were blessed in the Catholic Church itself.

To come into compliance with the District of Columbia’s new marriage equality law, Catholic Charities has dropped spousal benefits for all of its employees. Catholic Charities provides $22 million in services to the capital city that are paid for with public money.

The change affects 10 percent of their 850 employees who currently have a spouse receiving benefits. By dropping these 85 employees’ opposite-sex husbands and wives, they will not have to cover the spouses of their gay and lesbian employees, should those employees decide to marry.

In  San Francisco, which has strict partnership ordinances, Mayor Gavin Newsome convinced Catholic Charities to cover anyone in an employee’s household.

—  David Taffet