Legal Wrangling Over Catholic U. Dorms

September 16, 2011

Following a legal hearing in which John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, was asked to defend his gradual elimination of coeducational dorms on the campus, the professor who filed the complaint against him told Inside Higher Ed that additional complaints against two archbishops affiliated with the university are forthcoming. John Banzhaf, a George Washington University professor of public interest law, had said in news releases leading up to Thursday's hearing of the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights that Garvey’s presentation would determine whether he would also charge Rev. Allen H. Vigneron and Rev. Donald W. Wuerl with aiding and abetting illegal sex discrimination under the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act.

Father Vigneron is chairman of Catholic’s Board of Trustees, and Father Wuerl is the university’s ex officio chancellor and its liaison to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The D.C. statute prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and commercial space, and public accommodations on the basis of sex and other factors such as race, religion and marital status. If the human rights office decides that Banzhaf’s complaint is legally valid, it may begin an investigation.

Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, a Catholic spokesman, Victor Nakas, said, “We remain confident that the law is on our side and neither local nor federal law require us to provide co-ed housing.”

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