LGBT legal issues in Jesuit higher education
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Issues facing the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community can prove to be a legal nightmare for college and university administrators to address, particularly at religiously affiliated institutions like Jesuit colleges. Administrators have to walk a fine line between nondiscrimination statutes and the religious beliefs and teachings of the school's affiliation. This paper explores the main legal issues pertaining to the LGBT community on campus, including students, employees (faculty and staff), and university policy. It offers a historical perspective on these issues, including a quick overview of Catholic Church doctrine and relevant United States case law, and summarizes implications for administrators at Jesuit colleges and universities. Finally, it makes recommendations to administrators ways in which Jesuit colleges and universities can address these issues, staying true to their mission while being mindful of all human experiences. In 2004, Gonzaga University became the first Jesuit university to establish an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Resource Center, a much needed but highly controversial milestone in the history of providing LGBT services at Jesuit colleges and universities. Due to their relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, Jesuit universities are faced with the complex issue of balancing their need to provide student support with their need to maintain Catholic identity. This is especially true with regard to LGBT issues because of the Church's strong stance on homosexuality, particularly at Catholic universities, which train future priests. This paper will examine several issues related to sexual orientation facing different facets of the university community (students, employees, and policy), summarizing legal and policy implications for Jesuit colleges and universities. Then these trends will be analyzed through several perspectives to extract implications for Jesuit higher education, ultimately resulting in recommendations for handling LGBT affairs on Jesuit campuses. The purpose is not to call on Jesuit higher education to challenge the Vatican on its stance on homosexuality, but rather to encourage institutions to remain faithful to their mission of intellectual curiosity and thirst for justice. Unfortunately, the scope of this paper cannot meet the goal of addressing LGBT issues broadly. The acronym LGBT includes the letter T, referring to the community of people who identify as transgender. Issues impacting the transgender community, those relating to gender identity or expression, are not explicitly addressed here despite the need for a voice for the transgender community on Jesuit campuses. A whole separate paper could be written to address concerns specifically related to gender identity and expression. Some of the issues that affect lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities will impact the transgender community as well, but for the sake of analysis, this paper will focus on issues related to sexual orientation.
Hughes, Bryce E. (2008). LGBT legal issues in Jesuit higher education. Magis: A Student Development Journal, 2, 15- 22.
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