By Kaitlyn Robertson
PUC is taking steps to officially recognize the LGBT+ community on campus. Gelo Rivera, sophomore student senator, plans to submit a bill during winter quarter to form an LGBT+ club. If it were to pass, PUC would follow in Andrew University’s steps who, in late October, decided to approve an LGBT+ support group.
This will not be the first time the student senate has brought forward a LGBT+ focused bill. In May 2012, the SafePlace Policy Implementation Bill was introduced. Its goal was to promote student welfare, which caused a polarizing discussion on campus, ultimately requiring revision. The bill was separate from the SafePlace Network, which is an unofficial program providing safe places on campus for LGBT+ students. Employees at PUC who take part of the network have stickers over their office doors.
Additionally, there has been a GSA group on campus, GASP (gay and straight people). GASP meets every other Thursday at 8 p.m. in Fisher Hall Room 203, and provides an opportunity for LGBT+ students, allies and questioning students to hold discussions and learn more about LGBT+ topics. GASP creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere as it offers snacks and couches to relax on, accepting all who come.
On the last meeting before Thanksgiving break, GASP led the topic about Rivera’s bill. It was met with both support for the bill and concern for what a club would entail. The limitations of having administration monitoring the official group could deter questioning or closeted students from participating. However, there was overall agreement for the bill to go forward to create a group separate from GASP, which would continue to run unofficially. The president of GASP and junior English major, Tori Barr, said, “I think it would continue to help pave a way for inclusiveness in Adventism.”
The SDA position on LGBT+ has pushed division on the subject. In Nov. 2015, the North American Division released a statement on sexuality. The statement offers a “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra, drawing from biblical principles that demonstrate Jesus’s unconditional love and that recognizes marriage between one man and one woman. As such, SDA employees are not permitted to take an active role in same-sex marriages. The NAD also acknowledges sexual orientation is not a choice and offers support for people of any orientation, however, it considers same-sex sexual defined by the Bible. The SDA church has yet to release a statement about gender identity, especially concerning transgender people.
As a student-run operation, GASP allows students to discuss the adversity they face because of their identity. Though, without the formal recognition, GASP’s existence is purely spread by word-of-mouth. Having an LGBT+ club to promote broad sexual orientation on campus and offer smaller discussion settings at GASP would be beneficial to this campus. One member at GASP responded to the topic about the impact an LGBT+ club could have on others, saying, “The only influence I’ve seen in GASP is a positive one.”
Rivera’s bill will go to the administrative council in winter quarter. GASP members are hopeful to share their community with others and spread the news about LGBT+ on the PUC campus.