In 2005, Cynthia Squiabro-Kee, then a graduate student at Our Lady of the Lake University (“OLLU”), a private Catholic university in San Antonio, Texas, began efforts to establish a Gay/Straight Alliance. Although some faculty at the university had reservations about a “gay” group being allowed on campus, she marched forward and by 2007 her vision was realized and The Alliance was formed.
According to an interview at that time with QSanAntonio, Cynthia had fears that the “hard work, and vision [of The Alliance] will disappear.” However, under the leadership of its former President, Amanda Benton, The Alliance membership led the way toward a revision to the university’s student handbook to protect students, faculty and staff of the university from discrimination based upon sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, becoming one of the first Catholic schools in Texas with fully inclusive policies.
The work began in early 2012 when The Alliance posted a petition on the Change.org website seeking community support for their efforts, which received 247 signatures. The Alliance didn’t stop there and began collecting additional petition signatures from students, faculty and staff at the university, adding 408 signatures to the online count.
The group also solicited letters of support from those who would be affected by the policy change. Cynthia Squiabro-Kee, the founding member of The Alliance and now Assistant Director of Transfer and Graduate Admissions at OLLU, wrote to student life in support of the policy revision, stating, “As stewards of this great institution, we are responsible for the advancement of all existing and prospective students.”
Some of the additional letters of support read, in part:
“By embracing this full vision of equality, we can realize the best nature of who we are and what we stand for at OLLU.” Leda Barnett, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science.
“Catholic teaching is the foundation for this inclusiveness. Only one reference is made here: From the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (¶29): ‘With respect to fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.’” Oswald John Nira, Ph.D., Department of Human and Social Sciences, Chair, OLLU
“This language [including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression] would be in line with OLLU’s inclusiveness, and would signal the University’s support for universal human rights and dignity.” Paul Frisch, Ph.D. Professor, Library, OLLU
A resolution was submitted to the Student Voice Assembly for approval, seeking to “include the statement of ‘sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression’ to all relevant policies within the student handbook.”
After meeting with representatives of the Alliance, Equality Texas, the Rainbow Coalition and GetEQUAL TX, Jack Hank, OLLU’s vice president for Student Life, worked on revisions to the policy with the university’s attorney. On January 16, 2013, Hank announced approval of the policy change by the OLLU Student Life Council.
“As soon as I found out, I sent a mass text message to [The Alliance] members. Many of them couldn’t believe that we had finally done it. After the news had sunk in, I cried. All the hard work we had put in would now pave the way for future LGBT students being fully protected on our campus,” said Benton in an interview with tNCRM.
San Antonio remains the only metropolitan city in Texas without any ordinances prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, falling behind Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin and El Paso. Community leaders in San Antonio are currently seeking to amend all ordinances which provide for non-discrimination based upon other enumerations (such as race, religion and gender) to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, but have so far been unsuccessful in presenting the amendments to City Council.
Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio and blogger at jaysays.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.
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