He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)
When I was asked at the start of last spring semester whether I would be interested in assisting on research for an amicus brief in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases set to be argued before the Supreme Court later that spring, I jumped at the chance. Not only is it something that I’m personally and professionally proud of, as having the opportunity to play even a minuscule role in a major case is something that most people don’t get, it was something that I believe as a Christian was the right thing to do.
Do justice. Love mercy.
The brief I worked on dealt with the way that the laws negatively affect children raised by LGBT parents, and how those laws negatively affect LGBT youth, their sense of self, and their ability to imagine a future for themselves. More specifically, I worked on a team with several other law students to coauthor a survey to capture the voices of LGBT youth and young adults, and our paper is cited in the amicus brief.
The responses that poured in were heartbreaking. Kids shared their stories of growing up and realizing they were different, their fear and worry about whether their future relationships would be treated as legitimate by the government, and their feelings that they were lesser because of the law. Yet, in all that, they maintained hope that someday things might change. These kids dared to dream that there might be a future where they could build a life for themselves as equal citizens. I worked to provide justice for those kids.
Through this work, I got to play a tiny role in one of the most important civil rights cases of a generation. I got to give a voice to those who don’t have one. Like many people do when they have a significant professional accomplishment that they want to announce, I decided to submit an alumni update for my alma mater’s alumni magazine, The View.
And so, I filled out Covenant College’s alumni update form to say that I’m a student at UF Law and was asked to work on the Family Equality Council, et al. brief in Perry and Windsor, and that as part of that I coauthored the LGBTQ Youth and Young Adult Survey as a joint project between the University of Florida Center on Children and Families and the Emory Child Rights Project—all very professional and academic. There was no intent to make a political statement. It wasn’t a protest against Covenant or the Presbyterian Church in America’s position on homosexuality in general, or marriage equality in particular. It was just a nice, generic alumni update about what I’ve been doing recently.
The only part of my update that Covenant published was my name and the fact that I’m a student at UF.
The rest of the update, including the professional accomplishments that prompted the decision to send an update in the first place? Gone. Erased. Unacknowledged.
Covenant tells me that they won’t run it because they won’t print anything that’s counter to the position of the college. Apparently doing so would “celebrate” something they disagree with. The disclaimer in the masthead that the contents of The View may not necessarily reflect the views of the college is not enough. Neither was my suggestion that they print a disclaimer before the updates specifically stating that updates are for informational purposes only and do not imply endorsement by the school.
I’m not asking Covenant to endorse or celebrate anything—I just want them to grant me the courtesy that they give every other alumnus and run my alumni update.
Covenant keeps reassuring me that the campus is loving and safe for LGBT students, but apparently when we graduate we’re persona non grata. Our lives are sanitized to remove any hint that LGBT alumni even exist.
Everything is erased except for our names.
Play a role in the biggest civil rights case of a generation? Sorry, merely printing an alumni update that acknowledges that it happened is too much.
I feel like I’m about a half a step ahead of Mark David Chapman in the list of people who brought shame to the Covenant College name. Actually, scratch that, people at Covenant would talk about Mark David Chapman in connection with what he did. It appears that murdering a Beatle would get me more acknowledgment from my alma mater than helping fight for justice and equality gets me.
This is a post that I did not want to have to write. I’ve exhausted all channels of discussion and dialogue, and after much thought and prayer, I feel the need to speak out. While Covenant is entirely within their rights to publish whatever they want, what they are doing is not right. LGBT alumni exist, and to try and erase any evidence of us is wrong.
Not only that, but those LGBT students—the ones Covenant assures me they love—are going to graduate and become LGBT alumni. Those kids, who have been encouraged that it’s safe to be honest, are going to graduate and discover that all their honesty gets them on the other side is an alma mater that refuses to acknowledge them.
Covenant wants to have it both ways—to be seen as a safe space for their current students while hiding the existence of LGBT alumni.
The message comes through loud and clear: “We’ll be nice to you while you’re here, but the second you graduate, unless you remain committed to celibacy and opposed to equality, we’ll send you back into the closet—acknowledging only your name.”
But that’s not how it works. Covenant College will not be a safe place for LGBT students as long as LGBT alumni hidden away in a closet built by the school’s administration.
Originally published on “The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person”; Photo via flickr user Carolyn Tiry