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Students distribute LGBT Pride flags, protest Pence’s commencement speech

| Friday, April 21, 2017

Students passionate about LGBT voices at Notre Dame are coming together in an effort to find ways to protest this year’s Commencement speaker, Vice President Mike Pence.

Fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts said this campaign is in response to the “hostility” Pence has expressed toward LGBT rights.

He’s, in the past, been against same-sex marriage because it harms people, which is demonstrably false and really offensive,” he said. “In addition to that, he passed a budget which supported funding for conversion therapy, which is also just a whole other level of harmful to LGBT people. So it feels pretty offensive to have him coming on campus [to] give a Commencement speech where he tells me how to go out into the world.”

Ricketts and others came together and decided to distribute pride flags with the help of volunteers and alumni donations to send a message to Pence, he said.

“A wonderful show of solidarity, this brought together alumni, current students and faculty who wanted to be a part of showing students on Notre Dame’s campus that this a place where they are welcome and appreciated,” Ricketts said.

LGBT flags hang out the windows of a residence hall as a protest against Vice President Pence's upcoming Commencement speech.Michael Yu | The Observer

LGBT flags hang out the windows of a residence hall as a protest against Vice President Pence’s upcoming Commencement speech.

On Wednesday, the first day of the event, Ricketts said, there was a massive amount of initial support due to the dedication of student organizers.

“It was just a group of people who are like, this is really important to us,” he said. “And we’ve gotten a huge response. We’re almost out of flags and it’s the first day.”

The event’s Facebook page urges students to hang these flags out their windows to demonstrate solidarity against Pence’s speech.

Freshman Marisa Perino said she volunteered to help with the campaign because of Pence’s actions against the LGBT community.

“[He] voted for bills that allowed businesses to discriminate based on religious freedom,” she said. “ … That’s also extremely discriminatory, and I feel like Notre Dame should not be supporting [him].”

The event has not gone off without a hitch, organizers said, as those distributing flags at LaFortune Student Center were asked to stop by the Student Activities Office (SAO).

“We were just sitting at a table, we had flags and a computer … I was passing out flags, everyone was super happy, there was no drama,” Perino said. “The director of activities for [LaFortune Student Center] came up to me and was super intimidating, and super condescending and said, ‘You need to leave, you can’t be here.’”

Perino said she was told she could not distribute flags because she was not part of a sanctioned club event.

“He said that all clubs need to reserve a table … and I was like ‘We’re not with a club,’” she said. “I’m an individual student handing these out on my own, and he was like, ‘You need to have it reserved, you can’t solicit here, every activity needs to be planned out.’ He didn’t understand this wasn’t an activity, just a private student. He wasn’t even willing to listen to anything.”

Ron Grisoli, interim director of student activities facilities, said the students were asked to leave because they had not registered their distribution of flags.

Specific areas in LaFortune [Student Center] and around campus are designated for ‘tabling,’ or activities where recognized student groups may distribute anything from donuts, to t-shirts, to flags or petitions,” he said in an email. “Individual students not affiliated with a recognized student group may seek approval from the vice president for campus safety to hold a demonstration.  The reason the students were asked to leave yesterday had nothing to do with the nature of their activity, but rather because they were not affiliated with a recognized student group. … Only officially recognized student groups who submit their request for space and activities through [SAO] may use designated space in LaFortune [Student Center].”

Despite this explanation, Perino said she still believed it was her right as a private student, who was not part of a club, to distribute these flags. Ricketts said it felt like the University was, to some degree, silencing the group.

“It’s frustrating being a LGBT student at the University,” he said. “PrismND, the official Notre Dame group, isn’t allowed to do anything that could be construed as a political action. Officially, we’re not allowed to do anything, but when we do things as individuals we’re not allowed to do it, so it’s a really frustrating place to be. … It’s like the University doesn’t want us to speak at all, and that’s frustrating.”

Despite this setback, Ricketts, Perino and others will continue to distribute flags out of the College Democrats office in LaFortune Student Center.

Feedback had been overwhelmingly positive toward the event, Ricketts said, and they had received widespread support he believed could be sustained.

“[There have been many] people who saw the [event] online … and were like, I want to be part of this,” he said. “Certainly lots of LGBT alumni who wished [a show of solidarity like this] could have happened during their time here, but plenty of allies too.”

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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a Sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies, with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. He serves as Associate News Editor, lives in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

Contact Lucas
  • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

    Notre Dame is full of hypocrisy. The truth is that Notre Dame doesn’t stand for free speech. It deliberately censors feminist and LGBT groups.

  • Tripper

    Why the heck are these people allowed at Notre Dame? This is the preeminent Catholic University in America. These flags should be burned and the students giving them out expelled.

    • Josh Bradley


    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Oh look, a conservative opposing freedom of expression and praising flag burning. Hypocrite much?

  • Tripper

    “It’s like the University doesn’t want us to speak at all, and that’s frustrating.”
    Correct. Now go away.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Are you saying that opinions you don’t like should be censored?

  • Tripper

    “[He] voted for bills that allowed businesses to discriminate based on religious freedom,” she said. “
    Hello – NOTRE DAME discriminates based on religious freedom. It’s called the first amendment – abject stupidity by Marisa Perino.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      The first amendment allows you to practice whichever religion you want to. It doesn’t allow you to discriminate people. Discrimination is neither “free speech” nor “religious freedom”.

      • Tripper

        I know “discrimination” is the left’s favorite talking point, but realistically, we all employ some kind of “discrimination” in every decision we make. Making sexual deviants a protected class discriminates against those with Christian religious beliefs.

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          The only deviant idiot here is you. Homophobia is not the norm. In fact, 60% of the American people support same-sex marriage.

  • George Salib

    Not Catholic and definitely not Notre Dame. You undergrads should be ashamed of yourselves.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Are you saying that Notre Dame should censor opinions you don’t like?

    • HolyHandGrenade

      Catholic Social Teaching begs to differ.

      “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
      A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.”

      “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that if you want peace, work for justice.1 The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.”


      TL; DR People that are sinners in the eyes of Christianity, are to be supported in terms of secular equality and respect, personally and politically. If you want an example of this in action you can read the Gospels. This guy called Jesus…

  • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

    So conservatives who claim to be “censored” by universities now want a university to censor “dissenting” opinions?

  • Annette Magjuka

    The “sanctioned group” excuse is BS. When my daughter was a student at ND, she asked university officials why the Irish Rover, an UNSANCTIONED ultra right wing (Opus Dei?) publication was allowed to use the bins that the Observer (a sanctioned university publication) uses. She was ineffective at stopping the unsanctioned right wing paper from using university infrastructure to disseminate its publication. Does the Irish Rover still exist? Does it still use university bins for distribution?