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Don’t stop wearing orange

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Don’t stop wearing orange. Civil liberties is not an entitlement – it’s a fundamental, inalienable right. Being gay means that U.S. citizens and Notre Dame students have to forgo certain human rights. It means that gay couples cannot visit each other in hospitals, cannot share employee health care benefits and are not eligible for the legal protections that marriage provides.As a recently open gay man and recent graduate from Notre Dame, I realize that some people just won’t accept homosexuality, based on religious doctrine, institutional mandate or just plain fear. I spent years as a diversity educator trying to open students’ eyes to issues of diversity, wanting them to see that skin color, class, gender and sexual orientation are not reasons to hate or deny people their human rights.I can accept doctrinal differences. I studied at four universities during my time at Notre Dame, exposing myself to a wide range of perspectives. I realize that social and political beliefs come from a person’s own experiences, social indoctrination and education.What I refuse to accept is denying anyone in this country equality and justice. In Virginia, small businesses cannot legally offer health insurance to the same-sex partner of an employee. Many non-discrimination clauses in businesses and universities fail to include sexual orientation. Matthew Shephard is a reminder that hate-crimes bills have far to go. Unfortunately, these stories and voices are often lost in mainstream diversity education, particular if people feel alone in their plights.Gay students at Notre Dame still do not have access to the same support networks as other minority groups such as those resources offered by Multicultural Student Programs and Services and Campus Ministry. Allowing gay students to organize and advertise these resources without the scrutiny of the administration is crucial. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students at Notre Dame deserve better. Supporting them is not a promotion of homosexuality, but it’s a protection of their well-being, civil liberties and human dignity.There are many ways to do things better at Notre Dame. The shirt campaign is only the beginning. As a former resident assistant, I know that empowering Notre Dame students how to be just and supportive people starts in the residential life. Hall staff has a pivotal role in this process. The Observer offers an important venue for communicating dialogue on issues of injustice. Calling on administrators to make changes can come in a variety of advocacy efforts.Though I am proud of the blessings and challenges that I encountered at Notre Dame, I believe many crucial changes are still necessary before this world-class university is truly catholic in its ideals and practices. The horror of denying human rights must not be one of Notre Dame’s legacies.I call on students, faculty, and administrators to open their minds and hearts and make a difference.

Ken Seifertalumniclass of 2003April 21