Ken Bencomo, a former Catholic school teacher, said he was fired from his job less than two weeks after he married his same-sex partner.
The 45-year-old and his new husband, 32-year-old Christopher Persky, were one of the first gay couples to get married in San Bernardino on July 1, just days after the Supreme Court overturned Prop 8. Their photo ran on the front page of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, and a video went up on the paper’s website.
Bencomo had just signed an employment renewal contract with the school before he got married, but on July 12, he was notified that he was being terminated from his position at St. Lucy’s Priory High School, an all-girls school in Glendora. He had been a teacher at the school for 17 years, and was the head of the English department. He also coached the dance squad.
According to attorney Patrick McGarrigle, St. Lucy’s knew Bencomo was gay and continued to renew his contract. That is, until he tied the knot with another man.
“Their reasoning was that he had gotten married and it was in the papers. The school’s position was that it violated its teachings,” McGarrigle said.
“He’s upset. He feels terrible for his students, who he cares much about. He enjoys teaching very much,” he added.
The school would not discuss Bencomo’s firing on camera, but did issue a statement regarding the matter.
“We respect and protect privacy interests and, to be respectful of those involved, the school does not comment on confidential matters,” the statement said. “St. Lucy’s wishes to reassure all in our community that upholding its mission to educate students in the tradition of the Catholic faith is of paramount importance.”
After students learned of the firing, former student Brittany Littleton started a Change.org petition to get him rehired.
“As a proud alumni of St. Lucy’s, I am disgusted and heartbroken by this act of prejudice,” the 23-year-old wrote. “I believe that Mr. Bencomo deserves to keep his job, and that discrimination against teachers based on their sexual orientation must end. Please join me in speaking up for this adored teacher.”
At the time of this writing, the petition received over 13,000 signatures. Littleton said 99 percent of the school knew Bencomo was gay, but it had never been an issue.
Students, alumni, and supporters are also planning a march in front of St. Lucy’s on August 8. Over 1,700 people have RSVPed for the event on Facebook.
Ken Bencomo, for his part, wants to settle the matter outside of court, although it’s “not clear” what the resolution would be.
Do you think Ken Bencomo should have been fired?