Georgetown University officials refused to provide space for a dance last week sponsored by a group of gay students and two other student organizations, forcing the event to be canceled.
The cancellation of the dance, scheduled for Jan. 24, is the latest in an ongoing battle between the administration and the Gay People of Georgetown University over the right of homosexual groups to have official university affiliation.
"Approval was not given because it would have been historically inconsistent with the history and Catholic tradition of this university," Jack DiGioia, dean of student affairs, was quoted as saying in a recent edition of the student newspaper, The Hoya. DiGioia could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mayor Marion Barry has been reluctant to certify a $197 million bond request for Georgetown pending the outcome of a six-year legal battle between the university and two gay student organizations, the Gay People of Georgetown University and the Gay Rights Coalition, that will determine whether Georgetown has violated the D.C. Human Rights Act. The legislation prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Thomas Reichert, chairman of the gay student group, said that he requested space for the dance last November and that his request was denied nine days before the dance was to take place. "It's an instance of blatant discrimination," he said. "I feel terrible that they waited so long." Reichert said the dance was cosponsored with the Women's Caucus and the Progressive Student Union and was not intended to be "a gay dance."
The cancellation of the dance has created a stir on campus as students begin the spring semester. The Hoya published editorials last week urging the university to recognize the gay student groups.
" The adminstrators' distaste of the activity does not give them the authority to interpret selectively the fundamental freedom of the right to assemble," the editorial said.
The newspaper also urged Barry not to await the outcome of the legal battle before freeing up bond money needed to complete construction on a multimillion-dollar university complex.
Meanwhile, the College Republicans issued a call to students to protest the dance, if it had taken place. In an article entitled "Thank God the Gay Dance Died," also published in the Hoya, the chairman of the Students for America said the dance controversy raises the question "of whether a Catholic university has the right to maintain its Judeo-Christian value system in the midst of deserters."
Senior Mark Merritt wrote that homosexuality is a "sin" and a "perversion" and argued that a gay-sponsored dance would promote homosexuality on campus. "If only one young man becomes forever lost in homosexuality, or stricken with AIDS because of one perverted night when he happened into a GPGU dance . . . the price will have already been too high," Merritt's article said.
The controversy over gay students' rights surfaced in April 1980 when the two gay groups sued the university after it refused to provide them with university funds, subsidized office space and permission to use Georgetown's name.
Last summer a three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the university cannot refuse to "officially recognize" gay student organizations because homosexuality violates Catholic beliefs. The full Court of Appeals is scheduled to rehear the case sometime this year.