Student Senate to vote on motion leading to LGBTQ+ acceptance

Sens. Veronica Penales and Addison Knight are proposing a bill on Thursday at the Senate meeting urging the Board of Regents to add a nondiscrimination clause into the Statement on Human Sexuality. Ava Sanborn | Photographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

The statement on human sexuality in the Baylor University Student Organization Policies and Procedures has long barred Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unofficial LGBTQ+ group, from becoming an official organization on campus. However, the Student Senate is about to vote on a bill that could change everything.

On Oct. 22, Shreveport, La., sophomore Veronica Penales and Boerne sophomore Addison Knight, both senators, will propose the “No Crying on Sundays Resolution” to the Student Senate. The co-authors of the bill said they are committed to fighting for equality and diversity on campus.

This bill is being proposed the day after Pope Francis expressed support for same-sex marriage in a documentary released Oct. 21. This is another game changer for the LGBTQ+ community in relation to Christianity.

“We’re asking [The Board of Regents] to reinterpret Baylor’s human sexuality statement that has been changed and updated,” Penales said. “So the most recent copy we have is the one that … was established in 2009, and now it’s 2020, so we’re asking them to once again reinterpret the human sexuality statement in hopes of getting a nondiscriminatory clause placed into the Student Organization Policy and Procedures Guidebook.”

Knight said the bill refers to bill SR 66-14. The senate resolution, which passed in spring 2019, asked Baylor to change how student groups are defined, which would have allowed Gamma Alpha Upsilon to operate on campus without being officially chartered.

“It didn’t allow them to be a full chartered organization,” Knight said. “A lot of small steps had to be made to get to this point, which is why it’s taken so long … We have to address it because discrimination can never be allowed to continue.”

The intention is not to ask Baylor to change their view on sexuality, but to reinterpret the statement and add a nondiscriminatory clause so the two can coexist, Knight said.

“We are asking the university to end its discriminatory practices against the LGBTQ+ community,” Knight said. “I’m not seeking out to change people’s religious views … but right now Baylor’s practices are harming LGBTQ+ students.”

This is not the first time students have wanted to go to the Board of Regents to ask for a reinterpretation of the statement on human sexuality, Penales said. This time, they are hoping with the Senate’s support of the bill, they will have more influence and credibility.

Penales said she hopes the Senate will pass the bill.

“I think the times are changing,” Penales said. “I think with the incoming freshmen that are also going to be able to vote in this session, I think it’s going to pass. I would like to say I have full confidence in that, but I’m trying not to let myself get too invested.”

Knight said she has confidence in her fellow senators to do the right thing.

“You know, I don’t want to say for sure that it will because bad things can happen sometimes,” Knight said. “But I do have faith in the people that the student body has elected, and just the fact that they’re going to realize that discrimination cannot continue at Baylor.”

Student Senators are unable to comment on their opinion of the bill until Oct. 22, when the bill is proposed, discussed and voted on.

This bill and movement to support LGBTQ+ students goes beyond current students on campus. It has also garnered attention from alumni and former faculty and staff members.

In 2019, when Matt Walsh was invited to speak on campus by the Young Americans for Freedom student organization, a petition was put together and signed by over 3,000 members of the Baylor community. The petition asked for LGBTQ+ student groups to be allowed to become official on campus to show a commitment to diversity of thought.

“As members of the Baylor family who love Baylor and believe in its future, our request is simple: let us not have that unfortunate chapter in Baylor’s history repeat itself, requiring us to look back in a few years and realize that we were on the wrong side of an issue of basic compassion and human dignity. LGBTQ students have waited long enough to be afforded the opportunity to organize officially on campus,” the petition said.

Skye Perryman ‘03, Jackie Baugh Moore ‘86 and Tracy Teaff ‘82 have been key alumni pushing for LGBTQ+ support at Baylor.

“We and thousands of alumni stand ready to support the university in any efforts to achieve equality and inclusion for all students,” Perryman, Moore and Teaff said via email. “Baylor is the only school in the Big 12 and in all of the Power 5 conferences that does not allow LGBTQ+ students and their allies to form student organizations for community and support. We know that student organizations are incredibly important in providing community, connection and safe spaces for students, and we and many alumni believe it is important for Baylor to provide the ability to officially form community to all Baylor students, including LGBTQ+ students.”

Gamma Alpha Upsilon has applied to be chartered as an official student organization every semester for the past 10 years. On Friday, Portland senior and president of Gamma Alpha Upsilon Emma Fraley said the group plans to apply to be chartered again, regardless of the outcome of the Senate vote.

“We want the bill to pass,” Fraley said. “If that happens, then we’re obviously in a little bit better position as far as chartership goes, but even if that doesn’t happen, we’ve applied for a charter every single semester for the last 10 years, so I fully expect that process to happen just the same way this semester.”

Fraley said being a member of the LGBTQ+ community at Baylor can be challenging because it feels like the university doesn’t recognize them and allow their voices to be heard.

“I think that Gamma can really be that place for a lot of people to remind them that we are all welcome here at Baylor University, and we can fight for our own spaces to be recognized in that way,” Fraley said. “To find people who are like-minded can really be helpful for support in times of need. That’s really my goal for this organization is to really be there for our members when they need us most.”

Not everyone agrees that LGBTQ+ organizations should be officially chartered on campus. Fort Worth senior Zachary Miller, chair of Young Americans for Freedom, said it is not fair to make demands of the Board of Regents.

“Baylor has two choices — it can charter this organization or it can maintain its affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas,” Miller said via email. “It cannot do both. As Baylor claims to be ‘unapologetically Christian,’ it seems that they should favor the latter.”

However, Knight said Baylor’s commitment to be “unapologetically Christian” is the exact reason why this bill needs to pass.

“I think religion is a beautiful thing. I think love is a beautiful thing,” Knight said. “The love of Jesus Christ has inspired me for a very long time, and it’s that love, it’s that commitment to the teachings of love within the Bible that should convince everyone to support this bill and to support LGBTQ+ students at Baylor because they’re not feeling the love that Jesus Christ sets out in the Bible, and that love above all is is what’s important.”

Fraley said God’s grace is the only thing that can change people on the way they view the LGBTQ+ community. She said the best she can do is live as a queer Christian and not be ashamed of who she is.

“I’m very, very excited for some things that, you know, we’ve got coming up in the future,” Fraley said. “And I certainly believe that this bill is something that is going to be really, really good for the school, and I sincerely hope that it passes.”