Well slap me sideways and call me Sally: Belmont University, where lesbian soccer coaches aren’t allowed to tell their players about their pregnant partners, has finally given a gay student group official status.
It took three tries, but Robbie Maris has finally received approval for BridgeBuilders, which works on “empowering students of diverse backgrounds through assistance and aid unto gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students and those who support them.” Previously, BridgeBuilders was described as “divisive and problematic” and dismissed by the Nashville university’s administrators, who had no problem approving the anti-abortion group Belmont Students for Life. The move comes after Belmont took a lashing in the national media (spurned on by Queerty readers like you!), which led the school to add gays to its non-discrimination policy. That’s quite a 180 from April, when Dr. Andrew Johnston, the student affairs dean, denied BridgeBuilders’ first application, remarked, “Given the history of the type of campus that we are, we didn’t want to create a group to start a campus-wide organization around things that could be potentially divisive or difficult for the institution at this point.”
The difficulty of starting GSAs at high schools and colleges has been in the news quite a bit lately, and we often field questions along the lines of “What’s the big deal?,” but I cannot overstate the importance of a school like Belmont (the largest Christian college in Tennessee) acquiescing to the realities of the 21st century, where gay students don’t pay tuition and attend class and become members of the community in the shadows. This is a significant development, and a necessary one. Kudos to Maris for sticking through it all, and succeeding in what’s often a lost cause of academic red tape.
A joint statement from Belmont’s Provost Thomas Burns and BridgeBuilders announcing the formal recognition of the student group, giving it access to campus resources and funding:
This outcome represents many months of conversation, collaboration and cooperation between Belmont students, faculty and staff. We are pleased that our ongoing campus dialog about Christian faith and human sexuality has helped us to establish Bridge Builders as an official student organization at Belmont University. What we have accomplished working together represents our community well and is better than what we ever could have accomplished working separately. Our commitment to work together in developing this meaningful and important group on our campus reflects our community’s spirit of collaboration and dialog as we strengthen our diverse Christian community of learning and service through disciplined intelligence and compassion.
From a November news report: