Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Catholic university LGBTQ+ student group fights for official recognition

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Story at a glance

  • A LGBTQ+ student group at a Catholic university is still fighting to be officially recognized more than ten years after it was established.
  • CUAllies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. says it has been operating “underground” since it was founded in 2009. The university’s president has denied a request for recognition several times.
  • The university in 2019 filed an amicus brief in Bostock v. Clayton County, arguing that college campuses should be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

A LGBTQ+ student group at a Catholic university in Washington, D.C. has yet to be officially recognized more than ten years after it was established.

The on-campus group CUAllies at the Catholic University of America says it has been operating “underground” since it was founded in 2009, as university administrators, including university President John Garvey, have on several occasions denied the club official recognition.

Without official recognition from the school, CUAllies does not have access to resources other student organizations are entitled to, like funding and the ability to rent rooms for meetings. The group also cannot advertise meetings on campus grounds.

“CUAllies wants recognition as a legitimate group at the Catholic University of America so that all students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, will be accepted and treated with respect,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page. “Just as Pope Francis confidently said, ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’”


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The organization last attempted to gain official recognition in March, when the university’s student government association passed a resolution for the club to request official status. The request was later denied by Garvey.

Students say the club’s “underground” status may reinforce the nonacceptance of LGBTQ+ people on campus because it makes being part of the LGBTQ+ community seem like a taboo.

“Just the act of having the university recognize us would be a huge step because it would make people feel way more welcome,” CUAllies President Ash Samuels told the Washington Blade

“The nature of having a club that operates under the radar makes you feel like they have to operate under the radar and so just being recognized would make people feel a lot more welcome,” he said.

According to Campus Pride, which advocates for LGBTQ+ safety and inclusion on college campuses, Catholic University is one of the 180 campuses deemed unsafe for LGBTQ+ students.

To place on the organization’s “Worst List,” an institution must have received or applied for a Title IX religious exemption or have a documented history of supporting anti-LGBTQ actions, programs and practices.

The university in 2019 filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, arguing that college campuses should be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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