Leaders of The Catholic University of America’s student government approved yet another resolution in favor of the school recognizing a still-unofficial LGBTQ student group.
The Student Government Association (SGA) voted 20-4 in favor of a proposal by CUAllies to obtain official recognition, and therefore access to resources, by the University, reported The Tower. The vote followed three hours of public comment and senatorial debate via Zoom. Around 200 students, alumni, and community members attended the meeting, many offering testimony for or against formal recognition.
CUAllies’ resolution pointed out that several other large Catholic institutions have LGTBQ organizations with formal status, including the University Notre Dame and Georgetown University. It also pointed to statements made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which call for support of LGBTQ people.
Senior Emily D’Antonio, the CUAllies president, told The Washington Blade that she’s grateful for peer support but also feels called to reach out to the students and faculty who challenge the group’s right to exist:
“‘We want to be clear to students who do not understand, we are not a dating service for any queer students, we are here to provide friendship and support, and to do so within Catholic Social Teaching. We encourage everybody to come to our meetings to see what we are about.'”
Marina Massaroni, CUAllies vice president, echoed these sentiments. She recalled instant friendships that developed through CUAllies and the struggles that bond members of the group on a deeper level than a typical club, illustrating the need to call out homophobic and discriminatory speech on campus:
“‘Hearing what some of my queer peers are going through on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, I couldn’t live through that. I’m lucky I have not experienced hearing ‘you’re immoral’ or ‘you’re going to hell’ because that is soul-crushing.'”
Public comment also included statements from some alumni and faculty members, including Ryan Fecteau,‘14, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and a former CUAllies leader, who offered his support. A student read a statement from Professor Elizabeth Guthrie of the Modern Languages department, who recalled observing CUAllies being excluded unjustly from a table at a student clubs fair.
The president of the campus’ College Republicans chapter, Blayne Clegg-Swann, called out the mistreatment of the group as well. “It is hard to think of a group that has been subjected to unreasonable barriers of speech more often and intensive than CUAllies,” he explained at the meeting. “We have yet another chance to advance the cause of a culture of free speech on campus.”
Melissa Zentz, who opposed the proposal, suggesting it did not comply with church teaching, said that in order to be recognized as a university club, CUAllies “would have to actively promote chastity and a call to live a virtuous and moral life.”
But Sophia Marsden, who brought the legislation forward called this irrelevant:
“‘Talking about gay sexual intercourse distracts from this bill. Other organizations do not have to explicitly stress their compliance with the Catholic Church in this way.'”
Marsden also reiterated that the purpose of CUAllies is to create safe spaces for queer students and provide education, both of which are well within the parameters of Catholic teaching.
Ally Kilgore agreed:
“‘There is nothing in the text of these bylaws which contradicts the official stances of the church. In the bylaws, CUAllies have not made any statements on matters of faith and morals in regard to gay marriage or any other issues since those are the prerogative of the church and the magisterium.'”
As of last week, CUAllies was still awaiting a response from Garvey’s office and senior administration officials following the SGA approval. A spokesperson from the president’s office told The Tower that Garvey was interested in speaking with the student petitioners but had not yet done so.
For D’Antonio and CUAllies, however, the final ruling does not change their dedication:
“‘Regardless of what the answer will be, CUAllies will always be here to fight for our students, our staff, our faculty, and our professors, because that is what we do.'”
CUAllies, whose mission is “respect, community, understanding, and compassion towards LGBTQ+ folks,” has been fighting for official recognition since its founding in 2009. This recognition not only brings space at campus club fairs and use of university spaces, but potential funding for group events.
The group has been continually rejected by senior university officials, including President John Garvey. In 2012 and 2016, a proposal for recognition was ratified by the Student Government Association, but rejected by the president’s office. A 2020 petition also garnered over 1000 signatures.
—Angela Howard McParland, New Ways Ministry, April 16, 2021