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Friday, January 28, 2011

Victory! Belmont University Adds Sexual Orientation to Nondiscrimination Policy

By Michael A. Jones -

Belmont University has faced a storm of controversy over the past few months, after a lesbian soccer coach was terminated from the school, a gay group on campus was told it couldn't be an official club, and donors and former scholars blasted the University for creating a climate inhospitable to LGBT students and employees. Now, it looks like the tide may be turning on campus.
The President of Belmont University, Bob Fisher, announced that the school will be adding sexual orientation to its official nondiscrimination policy. A huge victory for the more than 21,000 people who emailed Belmont University here on, not to mention the scores of activists and students who demonstrated at the school and called for change.
Lisa Howe, the lesbian soccer coach who was terminated in November, issued a statement last night saying that she welcomed this move. It may have come too late to protect someone like her from losing a job, but perhaps it would be a sign of good things to come for LGBT folks on campus.
"Significant change does not happen without sacrifice and without some people getting hurt along the way," she wrote. "However, in my opinion, everyone is a winner today. Now begins the task for Belmont University leaders to make sure that acceptance of LGBT students and staff is not just a written policy but is also reflected in practice, attitude, and behavior."
Amen and hallelujah to that sentiment.
This news arrives at a moment when an LGBT group on campus, Bridge Builders, is again submitting an application to be considered an official campus group. They've been turned down twice before, the most recent time in Fall 2010 with the Dean of Students actually calling them a "disruption" to the campus. But there's hope that this third application will pass, and that administrators at Belmont will give the OK for the group to be an official campus club.
Congratulations, folks. This may be a small change, but it's significant in terms of what it represents: students, faculty and community residents, joined by a national audience, calling on school administrators to jump into the 21st century and welcome everyone to the table -- gay and straight alike. It's all part of that concept called "inclusion," a message that even though is not practiced by many socially conservative religious folks, is a tenet of Christianity that should be braced by all schools in Belmont's camp.
Now the question goes back to Coach Howe's point: Belmont needs to make sure that this policy isn't just adding words to a document, but something that is lived and breathed on campus. No doubt that the community will be watching.


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