Last month, an “unapologetically Christian” school decided it would not advertise within these pages because YS had featured a gay man in the February single’s issue. The school, according to an email from its marketing director to one of our account executives, does not celebrate singles for the sake of their singleness. They celebrate marriage. They do not celebrate, and this is their word, “hedonism.”
The incident caused a healthy round of debate in the office, and it inspired a thousand-word, overly emotional rant from yours truly. We discussed and I wrote; we discussed more and I rewrote. I’ve spent hours contemplating what to say—because I need to say something—and it comes down to this: A Christian school, and anyone else, can opt not to advertise with us; that alone is disappointing. But it is their right. What’s upsetting is that it doesn’t end with advertising decisions. Schools, both religious and secular, can discriminate against a student for the same reasons this school so euphemistically cited—because of his or her sexual orientation. And we’ve witnessed just that in schools across the country.
The last several weeks have seen headlines nationwide about Constance McMillan, a teenager in Mississippi, who wanted to bring her girlfriend to her high school prom, challenging her school’s anti-gay policies. The school cancelled the prom rather than risk whatever outcome they feared would result from her being allowed to do so.
Around the same time, Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic school in Boulder, denied re-enrollment to two children because their mothers are lesbians. The Catholic couple attends services at the church. The children attended school there for years.
“When we were allowed to have our children baptized, we made a promise to raise our children in the Catholic faith,” the parents said in a statement. “We now feel like our attempts at fulfilling this promise are being undermined by the church itself.”
All this happened just weeks after Rep. Jared Polis introduced the Student Non Discrimination Act. The bill makes it illegal to discriminate against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Every day innocent students fall victim to relentless harassment and discrimination from teachers, staff and fellow students based on their sexual orientation,” Polis said. “…Like Title VI for minorities in the 60s and Title IX for women in the 70s, my legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education, free from fear.”
Nationwide laws do little to explicitly address discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation. Last year, the California Supreme Court let stand a decision to expel parochial school students for being openly gay. Colorado laws are just as fuzzy when it comes to parochial schools, especially when there’s a policy that says families must follow the church’s values.
Faith has a magnetism that can’t be ignored, even to those who are swimming upstream in its raging waters. There are denominations that open their arms to all people, but in the coming years, there must be an evolution in all churches.
Christianity has to make progress in affirming the gay community, especially when it comes to our educational institutions.
Why? Because this is a civil rights issue. People are people and discrimination is discrimination. Some day, being Christian and gay—in an open and affirming environment—will not be mutually exclusive. Getting a Christian education and being gay won’t be a dream. In the mean time, let’s continue the discussion.