Catholic Colleges Debate Transgender Discrimination

| by Michael Doherty
The Boston College School of Theology and MinistryThe Boston College School of Theology and Ministry

Students at Boston College, a Catholic university, are pushing for a new anti-discrimination policy that includes transgender and gender-nonconforming students. It's a move that reflects the growing conversation around trans students on Catholic campuses nationwide.

A Boston College student government group focusing on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student community has put forward a proposal for a revision to the university's current anti-discrimination policy to include students' gender identity and expression, World Religion News reports.

While the decision to add transgender students to the anti-discrimination policy is ultimately up to the college's administrators, according to an article on the subject in Boston College's newspaper, The Heights, the proposal will serve as a gesture of the student government's stance on protecting trans students, even if the administration rejects the plan.

The proposal comes just months after The New York Times reported on more than two dozen religious colleges that gained exemption from civil rights protections that prevented them from discriminating against transgender students. The exemptions also allowed the schools to reject students based on factors like their sexual orientation and whether they had had an abortion.

The president of Catholic school Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, William Thierfelder, said he was applying for an exemption from the civil rights protections "due to the religious beliefs of our institution."

Gay and trans activists have argued that the colleges in question are using religion as a smokescreen to hide discrimination.

"What these universities are seeking is a license to discriminate while still receiving taxpayer money, and they are doing it out of an animus toward transgender people," Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, a lawyer for advocacy group National LGBTQ Task Force, told The New York Times.

The statement on the anti-discrimination proposal from the editors at The Heights reads as cautiously optimistic.

"This gives BC a chance to establish a precedent for gender identity and expression, as well as non-discrimination, among Catholic universities," reads the report, "but also opens it up to backlash from Catholic organizations that do not agree with the expansion of this policy."

Source: World Religion News, Boston College Heights, The New York Times / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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