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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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D.C. rejects request by gyms to lift mask mandate

LGBTQ-owned venues sign letter calling requirement ‘devastating’ for business

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Owners of two LGBTQ-owned D.C. fitness studios and one gym signed on to a joint letter with the owners of six other similar businesses urging D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt to lift a city mandate requiring patrons of gyms and fitness studios to wear masks. 

The Oct. 4 letter, written by gay businessman Bryan Myers, the CEO and president of a chain of local fitness studios using the trademark name of [solidcore], states that the mask mandate, which applies to people who are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, is based largely on outdated data pertaining to gyms and fitness studios collected prior to the widespread availability of the COVID vaccine.

“More relevant data to inform decision-making would be to study the data from two, large Northeastern cities that have opted to allow fitness classes to continue with the requirement of vaccination in lieu of a mask requirement,” the letter states. “In both New York City and Philadelphia, which have opted for this approach, we have not seen an increase in the trajectory of the Delta variant,” Myers says in the letter.

In the last week of July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that cities and local jurisdictions with 50 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents per week, which at that time included D.C., should ask residents to voluntarily resume wearing masks indoors. That same week, Bowser announced she would go one step further by mandating the indoor use of masks in most public places, including gyms and fitness spas or studios. 

Bowser and Nesbitt said their intention was to take immediate steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus so that the city would not be forced to return to the full shutdown mode, including the closing of businesses, that the mayor lifted earlier this year.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced they would ask residents of their states to consider using masks in crowded indoor spaces as recommended by the CDC, but said they would not require mask use. 

In their letter to Bowser and Nesbitt, the gym and fitness studio owners called on the mayor to provide the same exemption to their businesses as the city has provided for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, which requires masks except when patrons are eating and drinking. 

“While it is true that bars, restaurants, and clubs technically have to follow the same guidelines, we know that in practice, these venues have been granted exceptions by D.C. Health,” the letter says. “On any given night, you can find hundreds of individuals crowded into a U Street bar, at a Capitol Hill restaurant, or thousands at a performance or party at The Anthem enjoying themselves – singing, dancing and physically exerting themselves, shouting – maskless – so long as they have a drink somewhere nearby,” says the letter.

“And to be unequivocally clear, we are not advocating that there is anything wrong with what is happening in other industries or that there be a change to the management of those industries/venues,” the letter continues. “We are simply advocating that we be treated the same as they are.”

The letter adds, “Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the mask mandate for fitness studios and gyms has resulted in devastating financial impact to these businesses – many of which are small locally owned.”

It says patronage has dropped 50 percent for some of the fitness centers and gyms since the mayor’s mask mandate took effect July 29. It points out that the drop in customers comes at a time when many of these businesses have spent thousands of dollars and in some cases hundreds of thousands to upgrade their ventilation and filtration systems and other structural steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

Myers told the Washington Blade in a statement that neither the Department of Health nor the mayor’s office replied directly to the gym and fitness studios’ letter.

Channel 7 News reported that in response to its request for the city’s reaction to the gym and fitness studios’ concerns, the Department of Health released a statement saying, “D.C. Health’s stance is that persons should wear masks in gyms and during this time [we] do not have plans to change our stance on this guidance.”

In his statement to the Blade, Myers said the D.C. gym and fitness studios were frustrated and disappointed that the city at this time is not open to reconsidering the mask mandate for gyms and fitness studios, many of which he said are barely surviving.

“This mandate is directly affecting the livelihoods of residents of the District, many of whom are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+ in a policy that is simply not equitable, and is steering residents away from services that can help improve the overall health of our community,” Myers said.

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Heather Mizeur congressional campaign raises more than $1M

Former Md. delegate challenging Andy Harris

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Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, momentum
Former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur is running for Congress (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Heather Mizeur has raised more than $1 million in her campaign against anti-LGBTQ Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

“No candidate in #MD01 of either party, incumbent or challenger, has ever hit the $1M milestone this early in the election cycle,” Mizeur tweeted on Oct. 6.

The Victory Fund in an Oct. 8 press release said 80 percent of this $1 million came from Maryland-based donors, “a sign the district is ready for new representation.” And Mizeur continues to outpace Harris, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that say she raised $717,445 for the cycle ending June 30, while Harris raised $425,288.

“Andy Harris has taken every opportunity to attack and vilify trans individuals, trying to score political points with his base at the expense of the safety of some of his constituents,” Mizeur told the Washington Blade.

In 2014 Harris made the Human Rights Campaign’s “Hall of Shame” for proactively working “to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.”

“In contrast, the LGBTQ community knows me for my record,” Mizeur said. “And knows I’ll always lead with compassion and stand up for civil and human rights. I think the 1st District will respond to my message of respect and understanding.”

Mizeur, who now lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, served on the Takoma Park City Council. Mizeur was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for eight years.

In 2014, she launched a long-shot, grassroots campaign for governor where she finished a strong third in the Democratic primary, despite being outraised by better-known opponents.

But Mizeur also said she is aware of the challenges her team faces in taking on a well-entrenched Republican in a solidly conservative district.

The Cook Partisan Voter Index in 2017 rated the district as R +14, meaning the previous two presidential election results in the district skewed 14 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

“We have over $760,000 in the bank, and we’ve outraised him during our time in the race,” Mizeur said. “We’re raising the money we need to go toe-to-toe with Andy Harris next year.”

The Baltimore Sun in February reported Harris was “flush with campaign cash” mostly due to a 2010 redistricting that “packed” the area with Republican voters to increase Democrats’ chances in other district races.

“Yes, Andy Harris has over $1 million in the bank, stockpiled over a decade in office,” Mizeur said. “But in the short time I’ve been in the race, we’ve cut significantly into his cash on hand advantage.”

Harris has represented the 1st Congressional District—which includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties—since 2011 and easily fended off most challenges with at least 60 percent of the vote. These challengers include Mia Mason, a transgender military veteran, who ran against him in 2020.

The 2010 redistricting made Harris’ seat safe enough not only to donate nearly a third of his war chest to conservative groups and candidates, such as U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), but to openly court controversy himself.

Harris last year openly defended then-President Trump’s discredited efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And in December he signed onto an amicus brief supporting a failed lawsuit contesting the presidential election results.

This year he downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection in which numerous police officers were attacked, members of Congress were threatened, and the U.S. Capitol was vandalized.

Mizeur told the Blade that while Harris’ actions regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection were the catalyst for her challenging his seat, she feels the district is changing and he no longer represents their interests.

“Our supporters know he’s been embarrassing Maryland in Congress for far too long, and that some of his actions have shown he’s completely unfit to serve in public office, regardless of ideological views,” Mizeur said. “They want someone who will bring compassionate leadership and innovative thinking back to the first district. And that’s appealing to people across party lines.”

Maryland’s primary election is June 28, 2022, and its general election follows on Nov. 8.

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AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents

Patrick Trebat no longer affiliated with university

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An American University graduate student who was arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 7 on charges that he assaulted a gay Asian man and the man’s parents while shouting homophobic and anti-Asian slurs “is no longer affiliated with the university and will not be allowed on campus,” according to a report by WTOP News.

In an Oct. 9 broadcast that it updated this week, WTOP said Patrick Trebat, 38, who had been taking a night class at the university’s Kogod School of Business, was banned from returning to the campus.

Charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Trebat was charged by D.C. police with one count of felony assault, two counts of simple assault and one count of destruction of property for allegedly assaulting and injuring Sean Lai, 30, an out gay man of Chinese ancestry, and his parents on the 3700 block of Fulton Street, N.W., on Aug. 7.

The charging documents say Trebat allegedly began to follow Lai and his parents as they were walking along the street in the city’s Observatory Circle neighborhood near the National Cathedral. According to a statement by a police official from the police district whose officers made the arrest, Trebat punched and kicked the three victims as he stated, “Get out of my country.” The police statement says the family was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

A separate police report says Trebat shouted the word “faggots” at the family and shouted, “You are not Americans!”

Based on these allegations, prosecutors classified the assault charges as an anti-Asian bias related crime, but they did not add an anti-gay classification to the charges.

Court records show that Trebat was released two days after his arrest while awaiting trial under the court’s High Intensity Supervision Program, which, among other things, imposed a curfew requiring him to return home by 10 p.m.

An Oct. 8 story in The Eagle, the American University student newspaper, says it learned that Trebat’s attorney filed a motion in court, which the Washington Blade also discovered from court records, asking a judge to extend the curfew deadline from 10 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. so that Trebat could attend at night class at American University.

The motion, which prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not oppose and the judge approved, identified Trebat in the public court records as an AU graduate student.

According to the Eagle, representatives of the university’s Asian American and LGBTQ student groups criticized university officials for not alerting students that an AU student charged with an anti-Asian hate crime while hurling homophobic slurs had access to the campus and could pose a danger to students.

“Patrick Trebant is not affiliated with American University and is not allowed on campus,” AU told the Blade on Wednesday in a statement. “While we cannot discuss details of an individual matter, when a student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime, the university’s student conduct code provides for an administrative adjudication process. The safety of our students and our community is our priority.”

The Eagle reports that the code of conduct states that the dean of students or their designee can administratively adjudicate a case when a student has been accused of a non-academic offense “where the student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime” for certain misconduct. The code of conduct applies in a situation in which a student is arrested for an off-campus allegation.

Court records show Trebat is scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 15 for a felony status hearing before Superior Court Judge Judith Pipe.

Neither Trebat nor his attorney, Brandi Harden, could immediately be reached for comment.

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