It’s a great time for the MU LGBTQ Resource Center.
The organization just wrapped up a successful Coming Out Week with the Black and Gold Drag Show Monday night. The event was a fantastic way to showcase the immense and exciting progress that’s been made on our campus toward inclusivity and acceptance. Stotler Lounge was packed and wildly enthusiastic in support of the performers. Everyone seemed to have a great time, as usually happens at the annual show.
Mason Kerwick, Triangle Coalition communications officer and MC of the drag show, reflected during the event on the often-turbulent history of LGBTQ relations at our university. It’s quite easy to forget how long and difficult of a struggle it was to simply have MU recognize a queer student organization — all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, in fact.
In 1977, the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in Gay Lib vs. the University of Missouri that the University had to recognize the Gay Lib organization (now Tri-Co), which had first began efforts to be formally recognized in early 1971. The U.S. Supreme Court then declined to review the decision, against the wishes of Justices William Rehnquist and Harry Blackmun. Writing in dissent of the Eighth Circuit’s Gay Lib decision, District Judge John Keating Regan said:
“(H)omosexual behavior is compulsive and … homosexuality is an illness and clearly abnormal … defendants were warranted in concluding that formal recognition of Gay Lib would tend to expand homosexual behavior and activity on campus and likely result in felonious acts of sodomy proscribed by Missouri law.”
Remember, “homosexual behavior” was illegal in Missouri until 2003, when the Supreme Court struck down all sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas, and even then the Missouri Legislature took until 2006 to remove consensual same-sex intercourse from its definition of “sexual misconduct.” It has taken some incredible work to advance the rights and acceptance of LGBT citizens, done in part by groups such as Tri-Co and the LGBTQ Resource Center.
The progress we have seen in a generation, and even a decade, is absolutely astounding and inspiring. The organization that once threatened to strike our campus with “illness” and “felonious acts of sodomy” has become one of the biggest pride points of student life at this university. On Oct. 26, MU’s first genderqueer member of Homecoming royalty will walk onto Faurot Field. University administrators, who once protested gay rights all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, now stand alongside members of our LGBT community with acceptance and support. We’re proud to have such a welcoming and inclusive climate for students at MU, and we can’t wait to see what kind of progress the next year can bring.
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