Same-sex marriage could soon be legal in the state of Nebraska.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon is expected to rule this week in response to a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which contends that Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
As a private, religious institution, if Nebraska were to legalize same-sex marriage, it would not have much effect on Creighton from a legal standpoint. Creighton could follow Loyola University of Chicago’s example which banned wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples on campus, even though gay marriage is legal in the state of Illinois.
But as more states legalize same-sex marriage, Creighton is given the opportunity to reflect on the status of its relationship with the LGBT community.
Currently, Creighton’s Nondiscrimination Policy includes sexual orientation.
Tamika Butler is quick to admit she didn’t have the easiest Creighton experience. A 2006 College of Arts & Sciences graduate, she loved her academic experience and the different clubs she was involved in, and served as president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. But Butler said she also felt like a “double minority” at Creighton, as a black and gay student.
Butler said that treatment of LGBT students improved during her time at Creighton, but she believed other schools were far ahead of Creighton on LGBT issues after she attended conferences for Jesuit universities with
Current GSA member and Arts & Sciences senior Christina Bladow shares a similar view.
“I believe that there is always room for improvement in regards to addressing the sexual diversity on campus,” Bladow said. “Creighton’s treatment of LGBT students over my years at Creighton has felt stagnant and unchanged.”
Creighton does not have as contentious of a history dealing with LGBT students as other religious schools, but some of its decisions regarding same-sex relationships have upset people.
In 2013, some students sent letters in protest of CSU Program Board’s giveaway of Macklemore tickets, in light of the rapper’s support of same-sex marriage. This fall, Creighton announced that it would begin offering benefits to same-sex, legally-wed spouses of its employees.
“I think [that] like any institution run by men and women, there are definitely areas [where] Creighton can do a better job,” said Arts & Sciences senior James Doyle, president of the Catholic Student Organization and one of the students who wrote letters in opposition to the Macklemore ticket giveaway.
While Butler does acknowledge that more could have been done to address LGBT issues, she thinks that many Creighton staff members did the best they could.
“I really thought that there was a concerted effort about being very thoughtful about where we were as a city and what … our possibilities were, but also trying to support LGBT students,” Butler said. “I think despite that being true, a lot of my friends still weren’t out.”
Although Pope Francis said, “who am I to judge?”, concerning homosexual persons, the Catholic Church has not changed its position that marriage is reserved for heterosexual relationships.
“Under Pope Francis, I think some members of the hierarchy are trying to be more compassionate and welcoming and to pastorally support the LGBT community,” said Todd Salzman, a Creighton theology professor. “But there’s quite a bit of resistance to that among many within the Church hierarchy.”
Salzman believes changing the language the Catholic Church uses to address homosexuality to something more morally neutral is the
most helpful first step toward improving relationships between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.
For both Doyle and Butler, helping LGBT students to feel more accepted at Creighton starts with more nuanced discussions.
Doyle, in adherence with the Catholic Church’s views, believes that the purpose of marriage is to produce children and is reserved for a man and a woman. He thinks that the university could better help students explore what relationships are possible outside of married life and promote chastity for those who are not married.
“I think Creighton really needs to focus on living chastity in our individual lives, and so that looks really different for people depending on where they’re at in their state of life,”
Butler wished that Creighton had done more to address intersectionality during her time at Creighton. While she does not think that Creighton should be forced to act against its beliefs as a Catholic institution, she hopes that Creighton becomes more welcoming and acknowledging of its employees and students.