Student Council voted to pass legislation denouncing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ students by CIOs at their meeting Nov. 24. Twenty-six representatives voted to pass the legislation, one representative voted against and three abstained from voting.
The resolution was drafted in response to recent instances of discrimination by the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at U.Va. and Young Life College at U.Va. The resolution’s cosponsors include Religious Studies Doctoral student Jason Evans, third-year College student Ryan Alcorn, second-year College student Adrian Mamaril and Abel Liu, third-year College student and chair of the representative body.
In an open letter to Chi Alpha, third-year College student Alex Briegel called out the CIO for pressuring him to step down from a leadership position within the organization after he revealed that he was previously in a same-gender relationship.
“I have no hate for the fellowship, but I want it to do better,” Briegel wrote in his letter. “If [Chi Alpha] wants to act as Christ’s ambassadors, it needs to be willing to engage openly with LGBTQ+ issues. The Gospel is for everyone.”
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Evans said that he was “deeply disturbed” by Briegel’s letter and cited another incident in which third-year student Lauren Xue resigned from her position with Young Life Leadership at U.Va. because of the national organization's sexual conduct policy, which prohibits same-gender relationships.
“While we recognize the right of religious and political-based CIOs to govern their own affairs, activities and limit membership on religious and political grounds, we call for the Legislative Affairs committee to lobby the General Assembly on this matter,” Evans said. “We demand that CIOs become more transparent about their beliefs and policies so that students can make informed decisions about whether or not to affiliate with them.”
The University’s CIO Agreement states that student organizations may not restrict membership based on sexual orientation and a number of other factors — however, student organizations may limit membership based on political or religious affiliation, in accordance with the Virginia Human Rights Act.
During the meeting, a debate took place as to whether Chi Alpha and Young Life should be able to limit membership based on religious beliefs.
Rep. Gabriela Hernandez, a second-year College student, spoke in favor of the resolution, noting the detrimental impact of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students.
“As a representative body, we have the ability to ensure that both current and future students do not have to fight for their right to exist in a space,” Hernandez said.
Rep. Nickolaus Cabrera, a first-year College student, voted against the resolution and asked meeting attendees to consider CIOs’ right to exercise their own religious beliefs under the First Amendment.
“If this legislation is passed, it will discriminate against Young Life’s right to interpret their guiding texts themselves while receiving public funding,” Cabrera said.
Although religious and political CIOs do not receive funding from Student Council, they do have access to publicly funded resources including event spaces, storage space, formal recognition from the University, the right to use “at U.Va.” in their name, access to the U.Va. system to connect with potential new members and representation at the activities fair.
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Alcorn said that he thinks the issue comes down to a separation of church and state.
“While I believe that all religious organizations have the right to practice whatever faith they choose, I do not think that organizations that discriminate against protected classes (in this case the LGBTQ community) should receive publicly funded resources,” Alcorn said. “If an organization chooses to be bigoted, that is their prerogative, but they don’t deserve access to the benefits derived from taxpayers who they marginalize through their exclusion.”
Student Council meetings take place every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and can be accessed online.