Gay-friendly group lobbies for charter

Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer
Students meet to discuss forming a Gay-Straight Alliance Thursday in the Bill Daniel Student Center.

By Daniel C. Houston

A group of more than 50 students met Thursday in the Bill Daniel Student Center Den to discuss students with gay, lesbian and other alternative sexual lifestyles on campus.

The group, named the Sexual Identity Forum, is in the process of applying to be an officially chartered student organization at Baylor, and its founding members expect a final decision on the chartering to be made before the end of the month.

Alvarado senior Samantha Jones, the organization’s president who affirmed during the meeting that she is openly gay, said she was motivated to start a discussion group because she believes the administration has not always been accepting of students with alternative sexual identities.

“I feel as though the student body in and of itself is very welcoming,” Jones said. “Everyone I’ve come out to or approached has been very welcoming and very compassionate and tolerant. I feel as though the high administration … refuses to recognize that there are gay students on campus, and they refuse to allow a group like this to exist.”

Hempstead junior Gabby Garrett is opposed to the idea of a chartered organization like the Sexual Identity Forum.

“Personally, no, I think Baylor should deny them,” Garrett said. “I think if you want to have discussions you can make that group on your own. I don’t see why it has to have the Baylor-affiliated name to be recognized by Baylor, because Baylor does not recognize homosexuality as an OK lifestyle.”

Jones said she does not believe that the organization’s goals conflict with Baylor’s Christian principles.

“There’s obviously been concern that having a group like the Sexual Identity Forum, or a gay-straight alliance, would conflict with Baylor’s Christian mission, and I think that’s entirely untrue,” Jones said. “I think, as a Christian school, we should be showing love, compassion and tolerance to everyone, including LGBT students or even just students who want to talk about sexuality.”

Baylor’s statement on human sexuality states that it expects students not to participate “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.”

Although the organization’s members say it is intended to promote open discussion and not engage in any form of activism, Garrett believes that the forum could easily become an activist organization.

“I feel like, yes, they’re here to discuss the problems and violence and such like that,” Garrett said, “but I think it would also develop into things like handing out pamphlets to let people know about how they feel about it. It’s not just going to be about violence. It’s going to be about this is what we feel about sexual identity and orientation and I think that conflicts too much with Baylor’s views.”

Matt Burchett, director of student activities and member of the committee that determines which groups are allowed to be chartered at Baylor, said he couldn’t comment on whether the organization would likely be chartered.

He said student activities is primarily concerned right now with helping the organization to draft a constitution and other documents to ensure the intentions of the founding members remain consistent over the course of multiple years.

“We always want to support and care for every Baylor student,” Burchett said, “and I hope that this process is another example of us helping Baylor students feel supported and cared for in our campus community.”

Although the founding members of the organization expressed no intention of turning it into an advocacy group now or in the future, its vice president and Fort Collins freshman Adam Short would like to see the policy restricting organizations from advocating for LGBT issues removed.

“Considering that Baylor has a Christian mission, one of the big parts of that is teaching love, acceptance, caring, all of that fun stuff; and on that basis, I think that nothing would be more in the line of Baylor’s mission than an LGBT rights advocacy group.”