Court hears California gay, lesbian discrimination case
A Christian group barred members of the gay and lesbian community.
Apr. 27, 2010
A national Christian campus organization is suing a California law school for not funding the religious group because it will not accept members of the gay and lesbian community in voting and leadership roles.
In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the U.S. Supreme Court heard from the Christian Legal Society chapter at the University of California Hastings College of the Law on Monday in a case that brings rights for gay and lesbian people in campus organizations to the forefront.
The case brief stated that though all students can attend and participate in meetings and activities regardless of their sexuality, CLS officers and voting members must sign a CLS Statement of Faith and adhere to the pledge.
Officers must show the highest standards of morality for their profession of faith to be credible, the brief stated.
CLS legal counsel Gregory Baylor said the group adheres to the Christian belief of marriage between a man and woman.
"Accordingly, the mere experience of same-sex sexual attraction does not undermine a person's eligibility for leadership or voting membership," Baylor said in an e-mail.
MU Triangle Coalition Vice President Sean Jarvis said the issue does not only involve gay and lesbian discrimination.
"You're discriminating against queer Christians," Jarvis said. "How is that not religious discrimination in and of itself?"
Jarvis said he has friends who are gay and identify themselves with a religion.
"I think that it's really disrespectful to (those) people when (others) just sort of make the broad base assumption that if you're queer then you have to be an atheist," Jarvis said.
Baylor said CLS takes into account a person's belief even if they have never engaged in a gay or lesbian relationship.
"Even if a person does not engage in immoral sexual behavior, their belief and advocacy, say, that same-sex sexual intimacy is not wrong would undermine their eligibility for a leadership position," Baylor said in an e-mail.
Hastings College is responsible for funding organizations reflecting the various interests and viewpoints of the student body. It grants these groups the title of a "Registered Student Organization," the brief stated.
Hastings College lawyer Ethan Schulman said the institution's policies ensure social and educational opportunities in registered student organizations are granted to all students.
"They protect the school's students from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and other grounds," Schulman said in an e-mail.
He said he knows student organizations understand they have the right to select their own members.
"But, (they are) not entitled to be exempted from neutral policies that apply to all student organizations," Schulman said in an e-mail.
Jarvis said he has not experienced discrimination from organizations or programs at MU, but he knows there are people who have endured some form of mistreatment.
"I know that there are a lot of people who find themselves where there is something specifically that they want to do," Jarvis said. "To accomplish that, they have to be in a particular context that involves taking a particular amount of abuse, it just really sucks that that's how that works now."
Baptist Student Union Director Jerry Carmichael said the union must follow MU guidelines and rules to be an official organization. All officially recognized MU organizations must comply to a non-discrimination policy.
"We don't get money from MU, but we are recognized," Carmichael said. "MU has policies and non-discrimination is one of them."