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The cover for "Same Love," the song that led to controversy at Creighton U.

Gay Rights and Religious Colleges

October 28, 2013

Conflicts at two religious colleges last week reflect the continuing tensions over gay rights at such institutions, and the ways student groups are navigating the issues.

At Baylor University, the student government adopted a resolution that asks the university's board to change the student code of conduct to ban "deviate sexual intercourse" instead of "homosexual acts." The resolution would in fact ban every sex act that two men or two women might perform, but would clarify that the same acts are also inappropriate for straight couples -- and that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong.

At Creighton University, the Roman Catholic student group is objecting to a student group giving out free tickets to a concert on Tuesday by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the musical duo that created "Same Love," which has become an anthem for the movement for same-sex marriage rights. The Nebraska university briefly suspended the ticket distribution, drawing criticism, and then resumed it, drawing criticism from elsewhere.

At Baylor, Semantics or Real Change?

Baylor administrators have not commented (and did not respond to a request for comment) on last week's student government vote, but the proposal prompted intense debate. Because Baylor has regularly refused to recognize gay student groups, that debate took place without anyone speaking formally on behalf of gay students.

Trenton Garza, the student senator who wrote the resolution, said he and other senators believed that specifically banning "homosexual acts" in the student code created "an uncomfortable environment for the homosexual students here."

The resolution would not change the base of the university policy on sexuality: "Human sexuality is a gift from the creator God and ...  the purposes of this gift include (1) the procreation of human life and (2) the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond in self-giving love. These purposes are to be achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage." But it would change the next part of the policy, which currently states: "Misuses of God's gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts." By replacing "homosexual acts" with "deviate sexual intercourse," Garza said, there would be less stigma facing gay people on campus.

Further, he said, there would be more fairness in that straight couples could be punished for conduct that would place gay couples in violation of the code.

"We want to apply our policies equally," he said. He said "yes" when asked if the proposed policy would still bar any sexual act between two people of the same sex.

The vote comes several months after Brittney Griner, Baylor’s former star basketball player, came out, initially prompting speculation that the university was becoming more comfortable with students of differing sexual orientations. But Griner said a few weeks after coming out that she had been told by her coach not to talk about her sexuality.

While much of the debate over the student government resolution at Baylor was on whether the university was getting too accepting of gay sex, the reaction online has been critical of the university for not going far enough. Said one comment on Twitter: "This, #Baylor, is exactly why this gay alum is not giving you $$ yet. Wake up. It's 2013 and I can get married."

At Creighton, an Eruption Over Concert Tickets

The Roman Catholic student group at Creighton, not the administration, set off the debate there over the tickets to the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concert.

The student group urged that the administration block the ticket giveaway (which it briefly did). The debate captured more attention when two students published an open letter in The Creightonian, the student newspaper, criticizing the distribution of tickets. The letter noted that a video accompanying "Same Love" shows "two males in a same-sex relationship throughout their adolescence, adulthood and old age." Further, the letter noted that the rappers have specifically endorsed votes that paved the way for some states to recognize same-sex marriage.

"We at Creighton pride ourselves on being a Catholic school with strong Catholic values, and we believe we are still that university. With concern for its integrity, we urge Creighton to resist popular practice and instead hold itself to the highest moral standards. Please continue Creighton’s tradition of excellence in this area; cancel the ... vouchers for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis."

That prompted an outpouring of debate on the university's Facebook page. Some alumni applauded the student letter, but many others objected (some even saying that the university should have blocked publication) and many said that the university should never have even delayed distribution of the concert tickets.

A statement released by the university to The Omaha World-Herald said that the university was allowing the ticket giveaway and that this did not violate the university policy not to "endorse issues that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church." The statement noted that the university has had past programs that included Catholic teachings on marriage issues.

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