Students rallied Thursday at St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora to support a gay teacher who was fired after he married his partner.
Ken Bencomo, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga, was fired from his teaching position at the Catholic girls school after photos of his wedding to partner Christopher Persky, 32, were published in a local newspaper last month.
They were among the first couples to be married at the San Bernardino County assessor–recorder's office after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to marry in California.
Bencomo had worked at St. Lucy's for 17 years and school administrators knew of his sexual orientation for most of that time, his attorney, Patrick McGarrigle, said.
Former students said Bencomo was a popular teacher who was a mentor and involved in many school activities. They demonstrated in front of the school Thursday morning to show their support and demand he be rehired.
"Come with powerful voices, ready to sing our Alma Mater and show the SL administration — 'We Are That Change!'" the group's Facebook page said.
An online petition to reinstate Bencomo has gathered more than 49,000 signatures.
Brittany Littleton, a 2008 graduate who created the petition, said Bencomo's firing was a shock.
"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."
In a statement released through an attorney earlier this month, 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."