Last semester, junior Cody Melin received support from both students and faculty to introduce a group on campus for students who identified with the LGBTQA community. Unlike former student Ben James – whose petition to officiate an LGBTA support group on campus was declined in the fall 2011 semester – Melin is not working toward officiating the gathering as a recognized group by the university.
Unofficially, a gathering of students can meet together on campus. They cannot, however, be considered a university-recognized group until they undergo the group-officiating process. Because they refer to themselves as “university students” and not a “group,” Ron Coffey, vice president for student life, said they are allowed to meet and discuss anything at any time. Both students and professors have attended the gathering.
“If they choose to meet, that’s fine,” Coffey said. “They can do that. But from the standpoint of sort of being official at the university, we don’t recognize them just because they haven’t gone through the process.”
The group has been named Inclusion.
“Inclusion by its definition means nobody will get left out,” Jaclyn Van Duzer, the group’s spiritual leader, said. “Inclusion is for everyone, not just for LGBT. It’s for allies. For those having moments of weakness. We want to be that group to say you’re loved regardless of what’s going on.”
Van Duzer grew up with a fairly conservative background. Her father was Catholic and took a strong stance against homosexuality. He took personal issue when confronted with contrary beliefs. Throughout her upbringing, however, Van Duzer said she felt it was healthy and normal to question opposing beliefs.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. I know I’m going to get a lot of backlash for doing this,” she said, “but I feel I’m doing what’s right and what I’m called to do. I want them to know they are loved regardless of who they are, because that’s one of my main things — love.”
Ensuring the group will have a spiritual base is important, Van Duzer said, because love and acceptance stem from God.
“Love is the cornerstone of our faith,” Van Duzer said. “It’s why Christ died on the cross. He gave up His life, and God gave up His only Son for us. If we as Christians can’t reciprocate that love to everyone around us, then we are failing as Christians.”
Melin has been adamant about the rights and well-being of the LGBTQA community. He said he hopes regular sessions will encourage a broader acceptance of the community among the Christian community.
“I’m ready to fight for this group, this community of people,” Melin said. “We aren’t going to be silenced. We aren’t going to be oppressed. We’re Christian on a Christian university. And as Christians, I feel like we should love each other and respect each other enough to have a nice, safe group setting.”