Catholic University Students Again Seek LGBTQ Group Recognition

Students at The Catholic University of America (CUA), Washington, DC, are again seeking official recognition for their campus LGBTQ group, but whether their proposal will be approved or again denied is not clear.

16681740_1385224528176201_1053160779331066292_n.jpgLeaders of CUAllies (in which I participated during college) submitted their proposal to the administration last Wednesday, the culmination of a week of actions to make visible the support they have on campus.

Events included an “I am an Ally” photo campaign, wearing rainbow pins to a town hall with University President John Garvey, and a social media blitz using the hashtag #RecognizeAllies.

This latest drive began with a petition that generated 1,900 signatures, promoted on Twitter by CUA alumni like former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and actress Susan Sarandon. The petition read, in part:

“All students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, deserve to be accepted and treated with respect. . .We seek to create a respectful, compassionate, and understanding community at CUA by providing resources, a safe environment, and a voice for LGBTQ+ students on campus.”

CUAllies President Carly Tomaine told Metro Weekly that official recognition is not only about using University spaces or receiving funding:

“‘[I]t’s that Catholic University needs to acknowledge the fact that the LGBT community has been marginalized and discriminated against, and are still, to this day, fighting for their rights . . . And because of that they deserve an outlet to feel safe and feel at home, and that’s what CUAllies is to so many people.'”

But CUAllies is facing resistance from not only the administration. A small group of students is now opposing the group. A student government resolution to support the group, which passed unanimously last year, failed in a recent vote. And The Tower, the campus newspaper, once unabashedly supportive, was critical of the group in its latest editorial.

For now, CUAllies is continuing to hold meetings, offer support, and fundraise for expanded programming as they wait for a response from an administration that has been dismissive of students’ desires for an LGBTQ group on campus.

Similar proposals for official recognition were denied in 2009 and 2012 (the day after the University of Notre Dame finally approved an LGBTQ pastoral plan) despite the fact that CUA had a recognize student group from 1988 to 2002.

In 2014, administrators cancelled a screening of the film Milk about the life of gay rights icon Harvey Milk, and have the school has hosted LGBT-negative speakers.

Milk_FinalWhat is different this time is that the human rights law in the District of Columbia has changed. The Armstrong Amendment, which allowed religiously-affiliated colleges to discriminate against LGBTQ student groups, was repealed in 2015, opening the school to a potential lawsuit if CUAllies is again denied.

Approving CUAllies would be entirely consistent with church teaching, and it would enhance the University’s Catholic identity. New Ways Ministry’s list of LGBT-Friendly Catholic Colleges and Universities includes dozens of schools who have chosen to support LGBTQ members in their communities. It is far past time to #RecognizeAllies.

To read Bondings 2.0’s interview with CUAllies leaders last year, click here. For the blog’s full coverage of LGBT issues in Catholic higher education, see our “Campus Chronicles” category to the right or by clicking here.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 4, 2017

New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. Plenary speakers:  Lisa Fullam, Leslie Griffin, Rev. Bryan Massingale, Frank Mugisha. Prayer leaders:  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv.  Pre-Symposium Retreat Leader:  Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS.  For more information and to register, visit


6 replies
  1. Elizabeth Linehan
    Elizabeth Linehan says:

    I read the editorial in The Tower (CUA student newspaper) and it turned out to be more supportive of the student organization than I had imagined. The one condition set in the editorial seems reasonable: the organization needs to have a constitution, including statement of its mission. At my university that is a requirement for any student organization to get official recognition.

  2. Kevin Welbes Godin
    Kevin Welbes Godin says:

    Catholic University not granting recognition is hypocritical. It’s like saying, we will admit you, take your money, but not deny you your humanity and the dignity thereof. So much for Catholic University being a place of higher thinking.

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    Like our other responders (above), I went to the link and evaluated the “Tower” editorial about “CUAllies”. It strikes me as somewhat grudging, rather than viciously antagonistic. My suspicion is that there are some right-wing-leaning super-orthodox young Catholics on the editorial board, as well as some relatively progressive young Catholics. It really sounds (or “vibes”) to me as though the grudging conditional acceptance was a hammered-out compromise between those two antagonistic ideological camps on the “Tower” board. There are, in fact, conservative-leaning college-age Catholics — and those kids are much more likely to have chosen to attend CUA, rather than Georgetown or Boston College or Fordham or Holy Cross, all of which are comparatively liberal Catholic institutions with strong Jesuit links. This is what happens when the American RCC’s executive leadership persistently fudges on social justice concerns, instead of taking its cue from our Jesuit icon — Fr. Martin — and rallying strongly behind matters of basic social justice.


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