This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details
The firing of a gay teacher at a Catholic high school in Glendora after he married his partner and photos of the wedding were published in a local newspaper has sparked an online petition.
The petition to reinstate the teacher at the school garnered nearly 10,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
Ken Bencomo, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga was fired from his teaching position at St. Lucy’s Priory High School days after he married his partner of 10 years.
He and his partner, Christopher Persky, 32, were among the first couples married at the San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder’s Office following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed gay couples to marry in California.
Photos of the ceremony were published in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
School officials had been aware of his sexual orientation for about 10 of the 17 years Bencomo has been employed by the high school, said Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo’s attorney.
School officials specifically mentioned the wedding and the publicity it received during a meeting at which Bencomo was informed that he had been fired, McGarrigle said.
Bencomo, through his attorney, declined to comment.
“Ken was one of the school’s star educators and the decision to terminate him because he lawfully married a man is just heartbreaking to him –- it’s crushing,” McGarrigle said. “It shows a terrible error of judgment and complete disregard of Ken and what he has brought to the school.”
On multiple occasions over the years, McGarrigle said, Bencomo has introduced Persky as his partner to administrators at school events.
In a statement released through an attorney, the school said it 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,” the statement reads. “These values are incorporated into the contractual obligations of each of our instructors and other employees.”
Bencomo hopes to resolve the situation without legal action, but has not ruled out filing a lawsuit, McGarrigle said.
“The school went to the Draconian measure of firing him without warning and without legal reason,” he said. “The haven’t expressed any interest in finding a way for Ken to return.”
Brittany Littleton, a 2008 graduate of the school who created the petition, said that she was appalled to learn that Bencomo had been fired for something that was common knowledge through her entire time at the school.
“He never made it part of the discussion and he never pushed his personal life on us,” she said. “But we knew, the school knew, teachers knew -– it was never a problem.”
For the record, 9:58 a.m., August 2: A previous version of this post said incorrectly that Bencomo was informed during a meeting with school officials that his contract would not be renewed for the upcoming school year. His contract for the next school year had actually already been approved and he was informed that he had been fired.