Illinois’ first same-gender couples were married last week after a judge’s ruling found withholding marriage licenses until June 1 of this year to be unconstitutional. At the same time, Loyola University in Chicago, a Jesuit institution, began implementing a new policy banning same-gender couples and others from marrying on its campus.
The new policy comes as a response to one lesbian alumna’s request to marry at Loyola, denied by the University on the basis they only allowed marriages recognized by the state of Illinois. At the time of her request, marriage equality was not in effect in the state. In Bondings 2.0‘s previous coverage of that incident, students and alumni had expressed hope that Loyola would use Illinois’ passage of marriage equality as a way to welcome same-gender couples.
Until now, there had been no official policy about on-campus weddings and only about 15 ceremonies were hosted in a given year. DNAinfo Chicago reports on what the new policy entails:
“The policy, enacted in December, allows only Catholic-sanctioned weddings — between a man and a woman — at the school’s iconic Madonna della Strada Chapel in Rogers Park. All other ceremonies would be forbidden campuswide, university officials said…
“Wedding receptions, regardless of religious or gender identification, would be permitted in any of the university’s other venues, like at Loyola’s popular Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, Ill…”
Though specifically targeting same-gender couples, this will also exclude mixed-gender marriages by alumni from other religious traditions or civil ceremonies. There are questions surrounding the legality of this new policy, with the Windy City Times reporting:
“Loyola’s religious affiliation and mission affords the university exemptions granted under the equal-marriage law, which states that religious organizations are not required to provide their facilities for wedding ceremonies and receptions…
“However, the law’s definition of ‘religious facilities’ states that educational facilities are not exempt. With Loyola’s standing as both a religious organization and an educational institution, there could be room for interpretation based on how the law is worded. But the wedding and reception venues offered by the university aren’t necessarily used for educational purposes.”
Regardless, students and alumni are disappointed that Loyola did not make the right decision morally speaking. Paul Kubicki, the head of a campus LGBT group, said students were “exceptionally disappointed” and stated further:
” ‘Instead of sort of taking the braver approach and embracing the LGBTQ community as they have in the past, they’ve stopped short’…
” ‘It will be indigestible to the community as a whole. I think a lot of people really resent it…I can’t imagine it sticking around for very much longer.’ “
The students have support in alumni, as well as the local community. Michael Jarecki is a 2001 graduate who will withhold from donating or supporting the school while this policy remains. He told DNAinfo Chicago:
” ‘I was extremely disappointed because that policy is not reflective of the Loyola that I know…To me, this seems like two steps backwards.’…
” ‘If Loyola doesn’t see there are consequences to their actions, it won’t change…Why go through the work to promote Loyola when they are personally rejecting me as a gay man?’ “
The Huffington Post’s report of this new policy places it within the context of a larger trend within contemporary Catholicism:
“Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, told The Huffington Post Loyola’s policy is consistent with actions by other Catholic institutions in response to same-sex marriage legalization.
” ‘As gay marriage comes to more and more places, the Catholic landscape gets more complex,’ Duddy-Burke said. ‘Bishops reach out to churches and give these kinds of orders: Priests are told not to do this, not to officiate and not even be present at same-sex weddings.’ “
Illinois’ implementation of equal marriage rights was a prime opportunity for Loyola University in Chicago to augment an existing commitment to LGBT inclusion, but administrators missed it. The Loyola community now excludes far too many couples and their families from committing to each other in love.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry