U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh has signed a petition by Boston College students calling for their university to establish an LGBTQ resource center and add gender identity to the university non-discrimination policy. In a related story, students from the same school have organized a petition opposing the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-gender couples.
These initiatives are a part of a growing movement among Boston College (BC) students to create a more inclusive campus for the LGBTQ community, with specific calls for institutional resources and support, reported The Heights. The petition that Walsh signed was organized by BC Students 4 Equality and states, in part:
“An LGBTQ+ Resource Center would foster a strong sense of belonging and security among Queer and Trans students. It would serve as a tangible sign of inclusion and care offered to LGBTQ+ students, who often have a more difficult time finding these vital necessities on campus.”
According to data from a 2018 survey, LGBTQ students at BC indicated that they were unsure if they felt welcome and safe on campus.
During his tenure as mayor of Boston, Walsh, who is a BC alum, supported LGBTQ policies, such as legislation that would protect transgender people from discrimination. In 2018, he met with graduate student unions from BC and Harvard about LGBTQ issues. BC alum James Mazareas reflected on the experience with Walsh:
“Even though we already met about the union, later in the evening he was kind enough to take time to speak with me further about issues related to queer and trans students at BC. He took time to listen and ask questions and was just very supportive.”
For decades BC students have engaged in LGBTQ justice work on campus, according to a news report. Though the university has not responded to the petition, Walsh’s support has uplifted student advocates.
Alexandra Katz, a UGBC Student Assembly representative, commented:
“I think this is incredibly significant, just the fact that he signed this petition in support of this community on campus. He has publicly asserted his desire to improve conditions for LGBTQIA+ students here, and this is an immense step in the right direction, because in my opinion, it places more pressure on administrators to openly respond to these cries for more tangible resources on campus.”
Students hope that Walsh’s signature encourages others in the BC community to sign the petition and join other high-profile figures such as Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who tweeted her endorsement.
BC students from the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC) have another petition circulating. Responding to the recent Vatican statement that the church cannot bless same-sex unions, this petition asks the university to clarify its support for the LGBTQ community and their rights, reported The Heights.
The petition highlights concerns that the Vatican’s remarks, which describe sexual and gender identities as ‘a choice’ and as fundamentally sinful, do harm to not only LGBTQ Catholics, but also queer people everywhere.
In an interview with The Heights, student Megan Day expressed her own fear regarding the statement. “So anytime something like this happens, it allows people to almost excuse their homophobia and double down on their homophobia as it’s ordained by the church,” Day said. Because BC is a Jesuit institution, she believes that the administration has an obligation to support LGBTQ students and acknowledge the harm of the statement.
Another student Tommy Boyce, chair of the GLC, has doubts that the BC administration will respond, but he puts his hope in the community, saying:
“We end the statement with ‘Celebrating Our Queerness, The Exec. Board of GLC,’ because … our worth is not defined by the Vatican and by BC [. . .] And GLC will continue to create a space for queer kids to feel loved and accepted and to reach their full potential. And we don’t need approval from others or acceptance to do that. We’re going to do that ourselves.”
Another student Ivy DiBiase, also emphasized that “the Vatican does not define our love, and I think that’s very true. It’s a reminder that they can say whatever they want, but we define our love and we live our truths.”
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking here.
For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the Vatican ban on blessing same-gender couples and responses to this ban, click here.
—Beth Mueller Stewart, April 17, 2021