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ND, SMC review gay-straight organizations

Kelly Bale | Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Emotion flooded the last official meeting of the 2004-05 Saint Mary’s Board of Governance as members debated and ultimately approved the Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) of Saint Mary’s as a recognized club.

BOG members, by way of secret ballot, voted 12-3 to approve SAGA as a club. There were three abstentions. By receiving club status, SAGA is allotted an initial $50 in funding from student government. The club also gains the ability to advertise events on campus and to use campus facilities.

Members of the Saint Mary’s community attended the meeting, including one student who made a non-verbal statement by wearing a “Gay? Fine By Me” shirt.

The meeting opened with continued discussion of concerns about SAGA raised at the previous meeting. Officers tabled the decision last week after realizing members needed more time to think about the issue.

Student body president Sarah Catherine White repeatedly thanked board members for their work and asked them to be respectful of the various views voiced.

“It is a huge step to be able to stand up for what you believe in,” White said. “It is our duty to represent Saint Mary’s.”

Individual board members spent the week considering the issue and discussing it with their respective boards.

“A vast majority of the [Junior] Board felt that this would be something good for Saint Mary’s,” junior class president Danielle Lerner said.

Saint Mary’s SAGA founder and president Megan Schaeffer was present at the meeting to reiterate the purpose of SAGA and to answer any BOG members’ questions.

“Addressing students that are close-minded [about gay issues] is why we are forming this group,” Schaeffer said. “Every event we hold is open to the campus to try and address that awareness.”

Schaeffer also clarified SAGA does not have a national affiliation.

“[SAGA] would be our own group and address the needs of our campus,” Schaeffer said.

Some BOG members expressed concern with how SAGA would integrate a spiritual aspect, though board members like student trustee Sarah Brown thought the discussion of spiritual integration with SAGA was overdone.

“To assume that this club has to integrate the Catholic teaching into everything it does is offensive,” Brown said.

Other BOG members wondered whether or not the group would promote the physical practice of homosexuality.

“The social aspect of this club is not going to in any way promote sexual acts between its members,” Schaeffer said. “To keep bringing that up and making it an issue is … homophobic.”

Schaeffer said the college already brings speakers to campus to address sexuality from various perspectives, including the homosexual perspective. She also said it is impossible to avoid offending every individual on campus.

Board members addressed concern that

Off-campus commissioner Meghan Hanifin said after much consideration she too would support the group’s application, even though a homosexual lifestyle contradicts the official stance of the Church.

“There are times when you need people to help you through things and you need people to talk to,” Hanifin said. “I have had moments in my life when I haven’t lived my Catholic faith through.”

Schaeffer reminded the board of the non-discrimination clause in the Saint Mary’s College Handbook that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Schaeffer said she felt if BOG denied SAGA status based on its focus on gay and lesbian issues, they would be in violation of the clause.