As a Jesuit Catholic campus, Marquette has the challenge of standing by its Catholic identity and supporting its homosexual students. Two resources lie in the Gay/Straight Alliance and the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual support groups that are run through University Ministry.
The main difference between the two groups is that GSA is an organization more focused on education, discussion and awareness.
“GSA is meant to acknowledge all of the university’s students and encourage educational discussion,” said junior Michael Maloney, president of GSA.
While GSA is a recognized student organization, the GLB group run through University Ministry is focused more on providing emotional support and community for GLB students. The group is anonymous and the only people who know who comes to the meetings are members and the group moderator, the Rev. Patrick Dorsey.
“The group provides an opportunity to talk about (members’) day-in, day-out experiences,” said Dorsey, who has moderated the group for three years. “It’s about making sure that they do not feel alone, like they are an island, but rather a part of larger community.”
Dorsey said the group often had guest speakers such as members of P-FLAG, a gay pride organization, gay couples, and openly gay university employees. They are also made aware of and discuss current issues in the local community.
Although the group is run by University Ministry, faith is not a prerequisite of the group.
Dorsey said that while the position of the Catholic Curch is sometimes discussed in the group, the group is not focused on how to be homosexual and abide by that teaching.
“It is primarily for support,” Dorsey said. “It follows the university position of cura personalis.”
The university recently passed a nondiscrimination clause that specifically related to homosexuality in its statements on human dignity and diversity. It protects homosexuals from discrimination in both hiring and membership in student organizations.
Mark McCarthy, dean of Student Development said that prior to the passing of the clause, many student groups were already writing a section about non-discrimination into their mission statements.
“We respect the inherent dignity that is fundamental to every human being,” McCarthy said. “We also strive to find ways to include everyone in our student body.”
In the past, some religious organizations on other college campuses have gone under fire for refusing to allow open, practicing homosexuals into their meetings.
Joe Ortiz, president of Marquette’s chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said that InterVarsity does not block homosexuals from their meetings in any way.
“We would love to have people from all walks of life at our meetings,” Ortiz said. “Hindu, Muslim, homosexual — we would love more perspectives.”
Vince Strand, president of St. Robert Bellarmine Society, a Catholic Apologetics student organization echoed similar sentiments.
“We will still proclaim what the Church teaches on homosexuality, but we would definitely welcome homosexuals,” Strand said.
Things get complicated when the question arises of whether or not open practicing homosexuals could be in leadership positions in these organizations.
“I’m not sure how we would handle that,” Ortiz said. “We would really have to sit down with that individual and look at where they are in their spiritual walk with God.”
Strand said that it would be a matter of discussion for the Bellarmine Society as well, but for more specific reasons.
“Our leaders have to commit themselves to leading a chaste lifestyle,” Strand said. “The same goes for heterosexuals.”
This means individuals who were sexually promiscuous — whether gay or straight — would not be able to be leaders.
Although no such situation has arisen in either organization, the existence of the non-discrimination clause would complicate things if such a situation did occur in the future.
“Each student organizations constitution is required to have a nondiscrimination clause that includes sexual orientation,” said Kate Agnew, president of M Student Government.
Agnew said that if a situation of possible discrimination was brought to MUSG’s attention, that organization would be required to uphold its constitution.
McCarthy said he could not see why a homosexual student would want to be in an organization that might have such discriminatory policies.
“Now that we have this clause, we would need to respond in some way,” McCarthy said.