The Board of Trustees has released a framework for a task force created by the university administration intended to help it in the process of evaluating the university’ sexual stewardship code.
The reevaluations come as a reaction to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case of July 2015 that federally required each state to recognize same-sex marriage.
No matter the university’s decision on the matter – to revise the code or leave it as is – just talking about the matter is a milestone for LGBT students, even all students, on campus.
ACU’s code now says:
Abilene Christian University affirms the biblical model, in which sexual relations are experienced only within the marriage bond between a man and a woman. Relationships or their behavioral expressions outside of this example are not condoned by Abilene Christian University and are subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action.
What exactly are these “expressions?” Anyone could guess the “behavioral” aspect of the wording, that’s not too difficult. But under the “expressions” aspect, could a male student be punished for preferring Barbies instead of Hot Wheels? There’s ample opportunity to interpret the wording in ludicrous ways.
What the university needs is a framework to put the code into perspective, into a more detailed context, just like Obergefell v. Hodges did for Title IX.
Before the Supreme Court approval of same-sex marriage, Title IX was interpreted, mainly, as pertaining only to females and males adhering to their respective genders.
Title IX, part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
As said, for the past 40-plus years, this has been interpreted primarily to include women in the workplace where they were barred before.
Although the wording of Title IX was left open to interpretation for the past 40 years, a widespread of acceptance of “sex,” referring to any orientation other than heterosexual, wasn’t introduced until the Obergefell v. Hodges case last summer.
Since then, many religious educational institutions have filed for religious exemption from the law as it violates their beliefs in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.
As seen here, ACU is in the same position. However, this isn’t just a policy change full of jargon and consequences that seem far removed from students.
This directly affects how students are treated by their professors, by staff and by classmates. It can mean the difference in the number of students that transfer out because of discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
This means the difference between students feeling safe where they are, and whether they feel respected.
No matter the university’s decision on the matter, it’s time this campus opened up to talking about LGBT matters. It’s time to recognize that there are students on this campus living in fear of being shamed and shunned for their sexual orientation.
This is Abilene Christian University, where love and grace are supposed to abound. Everyone on campus should take this time to join in on constructive conversations on how to love our neighbors, despite differences.