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Students show support for GLBT community

Irena Zajickova | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Student, faculty and other members of the Notre Dame community will participate in events this week to demonstrate their desire for the administration to add sexual orientation to the University’s non-discrimination clause.

The events kicked off yesterday when students wore “Gay? Fine By Me” T-shirts to show their support for Notre Dame’s Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) community. Senior Patrick Bears, a member of the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students, said that in light of a controversial comic published in the Jan. 13 edition of The Observer, there has never been a more important time for students to show support for the GLBT community.

“Generally we try to coincide T-shirt day with StaND Against Hate week or National Coming Out Day, but given the controversy surrounding the comic we thought it would be better to do a weeklong initiative promoting these issues,” Bears said.
More students and alumni than ever expressed interest in obtaining T-shirts to wear, he said.

Former Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate said he wanted to get involved with the initiative to help show Notre Dame’s GLBT community that he and others on campus support their decisions.

“I wanted to participate in the project because just like everyone else, [the GLBT community] are people and have rights,” Tate said. “The Notre Dame community is a family and family members support one another to make the family stronger.”

Senior Johanna Kirsch chose to wear a “Gay? Fine By Me” shirt yesterday for similar reasons.

“I think it’s good for the student body to come together and show support for each others’ struggles,” Kirsch said. “I hope the GLBT community will be able to see that they do have supporters who love and accept them for who they are.”

Senior Jessica Mahon, one of the students in charge of organizing the T-shirt day, said she hopes the events planned for this week will show students the ongoing nature of discrimination on campus.

“I think it’s important for students to realize it’s not a problem that goes away,” Mahon said. “It kind of comes in waves. There will be a comic or a Viewpoint letter or something and it’ll be a hot topic for a week and then go away. But it’s not an issue that goes away for members of the Notre Dame community that are gay.”

Bears said his main goal for this week’s events is to simply start a discussion on the issue of discrimination against Notre Dame’s GLBT community, because it is often ignored on campus.

“I think [this week is] important because these kinds of issues aren’t really discussed on campus as well as they should be and there’s kind of this veil of ignorance surrounding these issues,” Bears said. “From a legal and theological perspective, Notre Dame needs to reinforce its Catholic identity by practicing nondiscrimination.”

Senior Madison Prieto, a member of Notre Dame’s GLBT community, echoed Bears’ goal of educating Notre Dame students and faculty.

“People at this school can be a little closed-minded sometimes, so [the events being held this week are] a good way for people to learn about what’s going on and the issues at hand,” Prieto said.

Following yesterday’s T-shirt day, a silent demonstration will be held today at noon at the University’s gates to protest Notre Dame’s exclusion of sexual orientation from the non-discrimination clause and the lack of a recognized Gay-Straight Alliance on campus.

Tomorrow, a panel discussion, “Where To Go From Here?: Moving Beyond Fruits  and Vegetables,” will be held in the Hesburgh Library’s Carey Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The event will consist of a discussion and question-and-answer session about what Notre Dame’s student body can do to fulfill the Spirit of Inclusion, a document adopted by the University in 1997.