An unsanctioned LGBTQ campus group at the Catholic University of America is circulating an online petition to garner signatures as it once again applies for official recognition as a student organization for the 2017-2018 school year.
The petition, posted at Change.org on Sunday afternoon, seeks to gather as much support as possible from students, alumni, and community members as the group, known as CUAllies, asks the university to approve its application. As of Tuesday morning, more than 620 individuals had signed the petition.
“CUAllies seeks official recognition as a student organization at the Catholic University of America,” the petition reads. “All students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, deserve to be accepted and treated with respect. It was Pope Francis who confidently said, ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’
“We seek to create a respectful, compassionate, and understanding community at CUA by providing resources, a safe environment, and a voice for LGBTQ+ students on campus. We want to facilitate progress at CUA among LGBTQ+ persons and people of faith by engaging in respectful dialogue to achieve equal dignity and treatment of all students, faculty, and staff.”
Past attempts to achieve official recognition have repeatedly been rejected, with university administrators arguing that the group could become an advocacy organization that pushes for changes in Roman Catholic Church doctrine regarding homosexuality. As a Catholic-affiliated institution, the university is not supposed to sanction any group that opposes official Church teachings.
But ironically, despite its current protestations, Catholic University of America had no problem granting official recognition to a gay and lesbian student organization for 14 years from 1988 to 2002. Other Catholic universities, including Notre Dame and Georgetown, have also granted official recognition to on-campus LGBTQ student organizations, provided training on how to be an LGBTQ ally, or opened resource centers to support LGBTQ students.
That said, the current administration at CUA has shown it can be easily triggered when it comes to anything that even addresses the existence of homosexuality. In 2014, the university cancelled an event hosted by the CUA College Democrats that included a screening of the Oscar-winning biopic Milk and an academic discussion of the Democratic Party’s relationship to the LGBTQ rights movement.
Despite the fact that the event did not advocate for any change in Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality — or that CUA Democrats held a similar event in 2011 without any controversy — the university forced the group to reschedule the event because of objections to fliers that framed the event as a “kick off” to LGBT Awareness Month and the size of a rainbow flag on said fliers.
Carly Tomaine, the president of CUAllies and an ally to the LGBTQ community, says she’s received a lot of great response from people who have seen or signed the petition.
“I’ve read all the comments left with the signatures, saying things like, ‘As an alum, I didn’t feel safe at CUA, as a person who identifies as LGBTQ, or as an ally,’ or ‘I’m coming to CUA, and I’m bi. Knowing this group exists helps me,'” Tomaine says. She says she’s also received support from other students and organizations on campus, as well as some helpful administrators, in her quest to have CUAllies recognized.
That said, there’s still some pushback from more conservative elements on campus. While last year, the Student Government Association Senate voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting CUAllies’ bid, this year, a similar resolution only gained the votes of 14 of the 28 Senate members, with seven others abstaining.
Luckily, the lack of support from student government doesn’t impact the status of CUAllies’ application. So Tomaine keeps pushing for more and more petition signatures to show the administration that there is widespread support from the organization, which has grown its ranks to about 75 total members, with close to 30 who regularly attend unofficial meetings.
“We actually don’t have a final number of signatures that we want,” she says. “We just want to get as many as possible, to show that we have support and that we’re not going anywhere.
“Personally, my biggest problem with us being recognized isn’t the money — we rely on the kindness of other people to support our organization — or the inability to book space, it’s that Catholic University needs to acknowledge the fact that the LGBT community has been marginalized and discriminated against, and are still, to this day, fighting for their rights,” says Tomaine. “And because of that they deserve an outlet to feel safe and feel at home, and that’s what CUAllies is to so many people.”