News » Workplace

S. Calif. Catholic School Teacher Fired After Marrying Partner

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Aug 1, 2013

A gay Catholic schoolteacher from southern California says he was fired less than two weeks after he married his partner, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Ken Bencomo, 45, and Christopher Persky, 32, tied the knot last month and were one of the first same-sex couples to get married in the San Bernardino, Calif., area, after the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8. The couple's ceremony gained some attention as a number of local newspapers reported on the men. Bencomo believes the exposure may have led to his termination.

Less than two weeks after the men got married Bencomo says officials from St. Lucy's Priory High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Glendora, Calif., fired him.

"Their reasoning was that he had gotten married and it was in the papers. The school's position was that it violated its teachings," Patrick McGarrigle, Bencomo's attorney told CBS Los Angeles.

The school's administrators issued a statement about the firing and said, "We respect and protect privacy interests and, to be respectful of those involved, the school does not comment on confidential matters. 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."

Bencomo has been a teacher at St. Lucy's for 17 years and was the head of the English department and coached the school's dance squad.

"He never talked about his personal life to his students, but it's something that students and faculty knew," former student, Abigail O'Brien, 19, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

McGarrigle said the school administrators knew Bencomo was gay and never had a problem renewing his contract until he married.

"He's upset. He feels terrible for his students, who he cares much about. He enjoys teaching very much," McGarrigle told CBS Los Angeles. He added that Bencomo wants to resolve the matter outside of court but said it is "not clear" what the best resolution will be.

"St. Lucy's has known of Mr. Bencomo's orientation for years," McGarrigle told the Tribune. "Administrators had been introduced to his partner in the past, so the suggestion that Ken's orientation is a surprise or that his lifestyle somehow violated doctrine is at odds with the school's knowledge and what seemed to be acceptance of him until most recently."

According to both CBS Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, an online petition has been created in order to get Bencomo's job back and has thousands of signatures.

Bencomo's firing comes just after a study was released this week that found LGBT educators are less likely to confront homophobia in their schools for fear of drawing attention to themselves and putting their careers at risk.

A similar incident occurred in May when Carla hale, an out physical education Catholic high school teacher from Ohio, was fired when she was outed after her partner's name appeared in her partner's mother's obituary, causing someone to complain to school officials.


  • , 2013-08-03 07:58:41

    The issue here is the old seperation of church and state issue. Even if strict anti discrimination laws protecting gay persons were in effect the Church would be fully entitled to terminate the man based on their First Amendment rights. Crappy I know but very true.

  • GAG'EM, 2013-08-03 13:27:43

    I make no excuses for the Catholic Church, one of the most powerful, corrupt, oppressive and hypocritical institutions in the world. BUT, to all these gay teachers who get fired and students who get expelled from colleges, I have to ask "WHAT WERE YOU EXPECTING?"

  • BlondieSL, 2013-08-03 13:34:17

    So maybe now, in this new millenium, perhaps it’s time for the Feds to make religions tow the line and put HUMAN RIGHTS first! Over an above any stupid religious BS, and we all know it’s all a bunch of BS by hypocrites who are just control freaks. We bitch and complain about other countries and their poor records of human rights, so why the hell are we doing someething about it here? The time of religions having SPECIAL treatment that allows the destructions of HUMAN BEINGS, has got to be over. HUMAN RIGHTS SURPASS RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS. It’s not really any different than the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech, for example, does not protect someone from yelling HI JACK or B O M B on a plane! There are more examples. The point is, it’s time to remove the freedoms that overshadow human rights. Just say’n.

  • , 2013-08-03 19:20:25

    The ministerial exception is at play here. As the above commentator correctly pointed out, what the hell were they expecting by working for the Catholic Church? I am mostly a secularist but I do understand how just how we want to live our lives as we choose and have the government leave us alone to make our choices with regard to our sexual orientation, religious organizations want to be left alone to make decisions that are purely religious in nature, or that contradict their tenets. It is a two way street, right?

  • GAG'EM, 2013-08-06 01:31:56

    No it’s not at 2-way street. Liberation and repression are not equal. Respect for human rights and bigotry are not equal. Acceptance and rejection are not equal. Just because the law allows religious institutions to preach hatred and intolerance doesn’t make it OK. My only point in my previous comment was that I’m surprised at how na├»ve these gay teachers and students at Catholic schools are.

  • , 2013-08-06 07:00:01

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • GAG'EM, 2013-08-06 22:14:15

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re referring to, but it seems you’ve tried to reduce the significant socio-political issue of ’human rights versus religious repression’ to a trite, simple-minded adage. Very impressive!

  • , 2013-08-06 22:22:03

    Complexity didn’t seem to work out very well with you. Thanks. Goodbye.

  • GAG'EM, 2013-08-07 22:50:37

    The fact that someone doesn’t agree with you, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand. Despite your inarticulate phrasing, I understood your point perfectly. I just think you’re wrong. Your simple-mindedness is surpassed only by your arrogance. Good-bye to you too.

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