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No LGBT group at Catholic U.

Announcement follows Notre Dame move to recognize similar org

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Catholic University, CUAllies, Ryan Fecteau, gay news, Washington Blade
Catholic University, CUAllies, Ryan Fecteau, gay news, Washington Blade

Ryan Fecteau spearheaded efforts to prompt Catholic University officials to recognize CUAllies. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Fecteau)

Catholic University of America announced last week it would not officially recognize an LGBT student organization.

Ryan Fecteau, a junior who is the first openly gay speaker of the D.C. campus’ Student Association General Assembly, told the Washington Blade that CUAllies submitted its proposal for formal recognition to administrators on Feb. 21. Dean of Students Jonathan Sawyer and Katie Jennings, director of campus activities, told Fecteau, who spearheaded the effort, in a Dec. 6 meeting the university had denied CUAllies’ request “out of fear that they would become an advocacy organization.”

“It is unfortunate the Catholic University of America is not providing space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning of whatever to feel they are welcomed into the faith community on campus,” Fecteau said.

The university, which denied to officially recognize the group after it formed in 2009, told the Blade in a statement the two administrators who met with Fecteau “expressed their appreciation for the thoughtful and respectful way in which CUAllies had pursued its request for recognition.” According to the statement, the goal “articulated by CUAllies of fostering a safe and welcoming environment for all students is shared by the university.”

Catholic University President John Garvey on Dec. 6 met with 15 student leaders and seven administrators to “engage in dialogue with them on that topic and to share ideas about how the university can better demonstrate its support for all students, whether they identify themselves as heterosexual, gay or lesbian.” Fecteau stressed to the Blade that CUAllies did not discuss marriage rights for same-sex couples in their petition for formal recognition.

“In declining the request for official university recognition of CUAllies, the administrators indicated their belief that, in spite of the group’s stated intent to uphold Catholic Church teachings, it would be extremely difficult for that pledge to be honored over time,” the university’s statement read. “They pointed out that there is a fine line, easily crossed, between a group dedicated to education and support of individuals who identify themselves as homosexuals and one that engages in advocacy on behalf of a homosexual lifestyle.”

Catholic University’s decision to not recognize CUAllies came 24 hours after University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins accepted recommendations from the school’s Office of Student Affairs to expand support to LGBT and questioning students. This decision will include formally recognizing an LGBT student group as an on-campus organization.

“A lot of people were very, very shocked and I think that’s a very good thing,” Alex Coccia, a junior Africana and peace studies major at Notre Dame who prompted the effort, told the Blade. “It was definitely something that not many people were expecting.”

A handful of other Catholic universities have LGBT-specific clubs, student affairs offices and even resource centers. These include Georgetown University in D.C. and Loyola and DePaul Universities in Chicago.

“Despite the contradictory decisions announced last week, it is undeniable that progress is being made on religiously affiliated campuses across the country,” Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, said in a statement released after Catholic University administrators announced they would not formally recognize CUAllies. “Students at the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America, among others, are doing incredible work to make higher education a more inclusive place for all. Campus Pride has worked over the years to assist these students and alumni to continually push forward and we are very proud to support them. We call on the Catholic University of America to recognize the value of these students’ efforts and the importance of ensuring their academic success, support, and safety on campus.”

Coccia also criticized the D.C. university’s decision.

“It’s really disappointing,” he said. “[CUAllies] essentially has the same purpose as what our group was and what the organization will be.”

As for CUAllies, Fecteau said the group and university officials have agreed to continue to discuss the possibility of formal recognition.

“We’re going to continue to have these conversations,” he said.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Barrie Daneker

    December 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    The way to make change is via the Board and Alumni Association. By gaining Board member support and getting big $$$ donors to support a CUAllies group, it will put pressure on President Garvey and Dean Sawyer to finally agree. It’s time that CUA get with the program! There are many avenues to use. Pick campus, pick the Basilica, show the university that this decision can have negative consequences for the pocket of the university and the church and things will change.

  2. Anonymous

    December 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Two lessons:

    First, if you are LGBTQ, do not attend a Catholic school.

    Second, when Catholic University says they want to foster "a safe and welcoming environment for all students," they are lying.

    • Ryan Fecteau

      December 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      For those of us who are Catholic and who identify as LGBT, we must not remove ourselves from the flock; to do so suggests that we do not belong. The truth is that LGBT people have a place amongst the flock just as anyone else does… And that's why I am proud to attend Catholic University and to be engaged in this conversation with the administration.

    • Tim MacGeorge

      December 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm

      As an alumnus of The Catholic University of America (CUA/NCSSS '98) and someone who also happens to be an ordained priest, I just want to express support for Ryan, CUAllies, and for the hope that one day this flagship institution of the Catholic Church in the US might fully welcome all God's children — including God's LGBT children — into the full life of the University.

  3. Thomas J Wieczorek

    December 19, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    As a Catholic, I am continually challenged, not by my spiritual faith, but by the leadership of the church. It saddens me beyond belief to see other faiths openly embracing LGBT at Pride Festivals which I have attended or other events while the Catholic Church is noticably absent. I only wish the Catholic Church could recognize the potential harm they do by demanding things that even priests have not been able to meet. Having studied for ordination, celibacy was a gift from God to which not all are called. Yet the church demands that LGBT individuals adopt this gift whether it is given or not. It would seem that after the damage that has come to light from expecting a "gift" to be forced, the leadership would recognize this fact and embrace the beauty we all are unique but still created in God's image. This denial is not so surprising, particularly given the vocal and financial zeal by the diocese and heiarchy to defeating any effort of LGBT marriage. Good luch and best wishes Ryan; I'm not sure I would be as optimistic.

    • Ryan Fecteau

      December 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you for your support. As I keep on saying to friends and folks who ask, "Why bother?" The change that our Church needs will not happen unless we are at the table to demand the change. The funny thing is we are not even really asking for change… The Church has long accepted LGBT people as innately LGBT. The Church's sexual teachings, of course, conflict with gay sex. But our group and our message was not about creating a space for meeting "hook-ups" nor was it to advocate for gay marriage. We want to create a space for fellowship and a space that is without question welcoming! Lots of work to be done!

  4. brian

    December 20, 2012 at 6:23 am

    First, thanks to Ryan Fecteau and CUAllies for continuing the fight on behalf of LGBT students at CUA. They are continuing the heroic efforts by their undergrad predecessors– which also includes a number of previous attempts by CUA’s Columbus School of Law students to get CUA recognition for a very tame, essentially educational organization– Gay/Straight Student Alliance.

    But given the near rabid bigotry and anti-gay hatred of the current Pope Benedict, I’m not surprised by CUA’s continued failure to honor its LGBT students and faculty with recognition of its LGBT student organization.

    Usually, I would agree with Barrie Daneker’s suggestion that going after this institution’s sources of funding is likely to get CUA’s attention– and more likely to bring needed change by CUA administrators. But in this instance, I think the demands of an outrageously homophobic pope is stronger.

    CUA’s unique ties to the Vatican is more determinative… at least while Benedict is still alive.

    The distinction that sets CUA apart from nearly all other Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S.– such as Fordham, Georgetown, Loyola/Chicago and Notre Dame– is that CUA is a *pontifical* institution– chartered in 1887 by Pope Leo hisself. Accordingly, CUA is far more tightly bound by official Vatican teachings– however bigoted– than administrators at other Catholic schools.

    BTW, CUA’s campus– just by the concentration of its particular educational specialties and schools (Theological College, Speech and Drama, e.g.)– has, IMHO, always skewed a bit higher to a gay student demographic than most other area campuses.

    I’m pretty sure CUA’s (relatively new) President John Garvey and Dean Jon Sawyer are well aware of their large number of LGBT students.

    I know Jon Sawyer and have communicated with him many times. He is so NOT a bigot, nor is he a homophobe. Most of Sawyer’s colleagues, I’m sure, are like him — good, caring professionals, working for an otherwise outstanding university — but very much constrained by its long-standing ties to an out-of-touch Vatican and its bigoted, homophobic pope.

  5. Ted Adcock

    December 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Tm amen!

  6. Bob Rimac

    December 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    My last boyfriend was a Catholic Priest. A large percentage of priests are gay. Banning the LGBT group is just a way of keeping the priests from being outed. This is so sad, because it does so much damage to the students.

    • Ryan Fecteau

      December 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      We much work to do! But they have not discouraged us. We are strong!

  7. Jim Guinnessey

    December 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    As an older post graduate degree holder from CUA, I am continuously embarrassed by the Vatican-inspired assaults on its academic freedom. The Vatican and chronic US episcopate interference and meddling at CUA have become a malignant cancer. A once proud and scholarly institution standing for academic freedom, CUA has now opted with its spurious rejection of its LGBT unit to be no better than the bigoted and third rate schools like Liberty and Bob Jones Universities. I urge all CUA alumni not to give one dime in gifts to CUA until its shakes off its umbilical connections to the US RC episcopate and its demonic opposition to any LGBT causes.

    • Ryan Fecteau

      December 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you for your support! I can tell you that many at CUA have not given up hope… Our convictions and our faith demands that we not stray from the flock and we will not, I promise!

    • Clyde Blassengale Jr.

      December 27, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Ryan, when you say 'not stray from the flock,' is 'the flock Catholics' or LGBT people?

    • Clyde Blassengale Jr.

      December 27, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Ryan, when you say 'not stray from the flock,' is 'the flock Catholics' or LGBT people?

  8. Raul Hernandez

    December 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    The Catholic University leaders should go back where most so-called Catolic leaders now belong, the Stone Age. This is just one more reason I'm not a Catholic any more.

    • Ryan Fecteau

      December 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      We are not going anywhere. CUAllies and our supporters will continue to be at the table!

  9. Charlie Fontana

    December 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    How many times does the catholic church have to slap us in the face before we realize that they don’t want us? It’s an appalling institution from many perspectives, and one can very easily hold any of the beliefs that catholics do without being part of their corrupt, intolerant organization.

    I was born into a catholic family, and I’ve got a sister who’s been a nun for a very long time, but I had a parting of the ways with the pope about the time I hit the age of reason — long before Benedict occupied the throne.

  10. Henry Huot

    December 24, 2012 at 12:23 am

    As an ordained RC diocesan priest who resigned my ministry several years ago after years of prayer, discernment and spiritual direction, and who is still a RC, I continue to strongly believe that Catholic laity have an obligation to speak their truth on matters of morality, gleaned from their lived experience, to the ordained, including their bishops. I am not suggesting a subjectivism that leaves no room for information from magisterial teachings. But there must be an openness to dialogue by all parties, especially on issues where conscientious, faith-filled folk disagree. I think allowance for respectful dissent must be defended as an option, without the dissenters made to feel that they are being run out of the community of the Church. CUAllies should be applauded because, as LGBTQ students, some of whom may very well dissent from the magisterial teaching on homosexual lifestyle, they are lobbying respectfully for acceptance, and I might add, freedom of conscience. Or do the bishops no longer believe in it?

  11. Thomas Nowacki

    January 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    I am too a Catholic lifelong the church always refereed new ideas but they as deny their own his when they allowed LGBT or the fact the God they worship is a LGBT. Look at the Laws of the church and see the rules that allow lbgt.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

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But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

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Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirment that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than three a requirement to accomodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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