In June of 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized within the United States and is currently legal in 27 countries worldwide, as of this past June, according to ABC News. However, Hope College’s statement on sexuality, created in January of 2011, still has not changed. It states that marriage should only be condoned between a man and a woman in alignment with the Church’s teachings, and that “Hope College will not recognize or support campus groups whose aim by statement, practice, or intimation is to promote a vision of human sexuality that is contrary to this understanding of biblical teaching.” This statement is heavily outdated and blatantly discriminates against LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and other) students.
At our beloved Hope College, it is sad to believe that such a statement still exists. The church has taken a stance, specifically referenced in this case as the Reformed Church in America, to be against any marriage that falls outside the boundaries of a man and a woman. However, even though this church is Hope’s founding denomination, it does not mean that Hope must take a similar stance. Hope has failed to firmly make a statement against white supremacy or to take a side in the pro-life/pro-choice debate. Both of these issues have been clearly laid-out by the church. So why does the college feel the need to take a stance against same-sex marriage, a stance that marginalizes and alienates many Hope students? The second half of the statement prohibits the recognition of a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus or any groups that go against the college’s stance on sexuality. Organizations such as GLOBE (an old acronym that stands for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Experience) and GRACES (Growing Respect, Authentic Community, and Education on Sexuality), although they certainly have some benefits, they are not enough in the grand scheme of protecting LGBT+ students. GLOBE is not recognized by the college as an official organization and is therefore ignored, pushing the LGBT+ community out of sight and out of mind.
While GLOBE is a wonderful, warm, welcoming, and much-needed safe-haven for LGBT+ closeted students, the organization’s unofficial existence does not demonstrate that LGBT+ individuals are welcome on campus in the broader Hope atmosphere. GRACES, which takes a neutral stance on sexuality and related issues, offers civil dialogue on these topics. I believe those who created GRACES and those who are currently involved have no intentions of discrimination or hurt, but the current place created for these discussions is not ideal. The organization presents many other important topics that are considered taboo on campus such as healthy sexuality, pornography, dating or abstinence. These conversations encourage students to have an open mind. But the double-sided nature of conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity is dangerous for the well-being and mental health of LGBT+ students on Hope’s campus. In my opinion, although their existence definitely displays progress, these two organizations do not sufficiently work toward the safety and visibility of LGBT+ students. I propose that Hope’s statement on sexuality be removed. Discussions within GRACES that debate or have a negative attitude toward samesex marriage, gender identity or sexual orientation should end. GLOBE should remain as, what was said earlier, a safe-haven for LGBT+ students, especially for those who are still closeted.
A Gay-Straight Alliance should also be created to demonstrate that LGBT+ students are welcome and to advocate for their equality, not only on Hope’s campus but in broader society. All organizations that support the existence of LGBT+ students and affirm their right to be treated equally deserve to be recognized and supported as official student groups by Hope College.