The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Georgetown students vote not to take action against pro-heterosexual-marriage campus group

(Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

A panel of Georgetown students decided not to take action against a pro-heterosexual-marriage campus group that had been the subject of a complaint accusing it of fostering hatred and intolerance.

After deliberating behind closed doors until after midnight Friday, the Student Activities Commission voted 8-to-4 that no sanctions should be imposed on Love Saxa, which advocates for marriage as “a monogamous and permanent union between a man and a woman,” the group states in its constitution.

[Georgetown students file discrimination complaint against campus group that promotes heterosexual marriage]

In their complaint filed last month, Jasmin Ouseph, a junior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Chad Gasman, a sophomore from Los Angeles, argued that Love Saxa’s definition of marriage — which aligns with that espoused by the Catholic Church — excludes and dehumanizes people in the LGBT community. They charge that Love Saxa violates university standards governing sanctioned student groups and demand that it be defunded and removed as an officially sanctioned student group.

The committee’s ruling is not binding, and is merely a recommendation to the university’s director of student engagement, who can choose to accept, amend or reject it. The issue will now probably come before the university on appeal, raising the question of how administrators at Georgetown, the United States’ oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher learning, will handle the controversy.

In a statement, the student-run activities commission said that while it”acknowledges and respects the concerns put forth by the complainants, the Commission did not find Love Saxa’s purpose or actions to be in violation of the Student Organization Standards.” The commission added that “it strives to create an environment among student organizations where ideas can flow freely in a civil and respectful manner,” and where there is a diversity and difference in opinion.

Rachel Pugh, a university spokeswoman, reflected a similar sentiment.

“We strongly support a climate that continues to provide students with new and deeper contexts for engaging with our Catholic tradition and identity,” Pugh said in a statement. “Love Saxa is one of many groups operating on campus with positions that affirm the teachings of the Catholic Church. We also support a climate that is welcoming to all students and supporting of our LGBTQ communities.”

For Amelia Irvine, a junior from Phoenix and the president of Love Saxa, the decision was a vindication that the group, while promoting its own views, was not denigrating the views of others.

The hearing process has taken up a lot of time and energy, she said, and now she hopes to continue her work with Love Saxa “hopefully somewhat peacefully.”

“I’m glad that it’s over but to be honest, it never should have happened,” Irvine said of what she thought was an unnecessarily political and dramatic hearing process. “The administration should … have looked at the complaint and asked us to work it out among ourselves. … This process has just been a lot for me and for other members.”

In the view of Ouseph and Gasman, the commission’s vote in favor of Love Saxa was an insult and demonstrated total disregard for their complaints against the very nature of the Love Saxa’s stated mission and activities. They said that they will now take the issue up to the university administration on appeal.

“And at the end of the day, it was eight straight people deciding that being pro-heterosexual-marriage-only doesn’t also mean that you’re anti-same-sex marriage, which I find a little ridiculous,” Ouseph said. “Saying that I’m pro-white-supremacy would also indicate that I’m against racial justice. It works literally the same way no matter how you spin it.”

She wasn’t expecting the student commissioners to be “radical warriors for queer justice,” but said that it was “pretty telling that the only two people of color in the entire commission voted in support of us.”

The decision is “a big step backwards,” Gasman said, and it “calls to question the university’s reputation and self-made claim of being the nation’s most queer-friendly Catholic campus.” Gasman is frustrated that some tuition money will now continue to fund Love Saxa, which Gasman said “advocates for traditional marriage and against queer marriage and queer lives.”

“Ultimately, we’re being forced to pay for people who hate us,” Gasman said.

Ouseph said that in addition to appealing this decision, she will now push for official recognition of the student group H*yas for Choice, which describes itself as “pro-choice, pro-reproductive justice.” The group has an active campus presence despite not being officially recognized by the university.