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Inside Solidarity Week: Eastern’s Refuge and Political Activism Club join to support LGBT+ staff and students.

      This week, April 9-13, Refuge, Eastern’s club for LGBT+ students and allies and Political Activism Club are hosting several events focused on LGBT+ issues at Eastern. Each event has a specific purpose, and the hope is that, through these events, the whole campus will have many opportunities to engage in this ongoing conversation. Tuesday’s event, the Rainbow Pancake Open House, is a time for students to come enjoy food and music and have the opportunity to learn what Refuge does on campus and ask questions about the club and the week’s events. On Wednesday evening, Eastern professor, Dr. Pete Enns is giving a lecture about what the scriptures have to say about LGBT+ issues. He will be addressing several of the “clobber passages,” or passages that are often used to shame and reject LGBT+ people, and offering his perspectives. Dr. Enns’ lecture will be accompanied by a video compilation of interviews from  members of Eastern’s community speaking about their perspectives and experiences. Thursday’s event is “Poster-Making Night.” All students are invited to Gallup Lounge to create posters for the culminating event of Solidarity Week on Friday. The Solidarity Stand will take place on Friday on the lawn in front of Andrews Hall at 11:00am. Many members of Eastern’s community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni will be praying and sharing their thoughts and experiences surrounding LGBT+ issues at Eastern.

      The members of Refuge and Political Activism Club have spent the last months planning not only the logistics of these events, but also creating documents that outline the goals for Solidarity Stand: “The purpose of the Solidarity Stand is to advocate for the wellbeing of the LGBT members of the Eastern University community by:  1) Urging the university to make the four specific changes outlined in the “Solidarity Stand 2018 Objectives,” 2) Providing a platform for LGBT people and allies to speak about their experiences and perspectives surrounding LGBT issues at Eastern, and  3) Sharing with the wider Eastern community what we would like to see for Eastern in the future regarding the inclusion and support of LGBT people.”

      The “Solidarity Stand 2018 Objectives” is a formal list of four specific changes that the clubs are advocating for the Eastern administration to make to the university’s policies and official language. The most pressing issue on this list is advocating for “the removal of the phrase ‘homosexual conduct’ from the examples of ‘moral turpitude’ in the faculty handbook.” This objective mirrors one of the recommendations put forth by Eastern’s Human Sexuality Task Force in 2015.

      Refuge and PAC offer the following statement regarding this objective: “This language is not only vague and unhelpful; there are also several ways in which it harms our community. First, this policy is blatant discrimination against LGBT+ faculty. While this is not technically illegal, it’s still wrong. Professors should not have to choose between their career and the people they love. Second, it is important for LGBT+ students to have mentors who are familiar with their experiences. It’s hard to be out as an LGBT+ person in a Christian community, and it would be amazing for LGBT students to have professors who they could talk to about it. It’s great that there are many professors who are affirming allies, but it’s not the same. Third, even though Eastern is relatively welcoming to LGBT+ students, because of this policy, once students graduate, they are not welcome to return to the school as faculty. Like most students, LGBT+ students at Eastern are invested in the school and want to see Eastern continue to do great things in the future. As it stands now, LGBT+ students would not be able to return to work at Eastern as faculty members, counselors, or certain other types of employees.”

     The “Solidarity Stand 2018 Objectives” also calls for Eastern to adopt a neutral stance on marriage equality by “removing the phrase ‘between a man and a woman’ from the definition of marriage in the student handbook,” recognizing the specific housing needs of trans and non-binary students by “adding a ‘non-binary and/or transgender’ option on the housing card,” and “providing LGBT sensitivity training for faculty.”

     Sources: Refuge, Political Activism Club, Eastern.edu

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