Dozens of graduating seniors at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) handed small rainbow pride flags to Interim President Pete Menjares in protest of the school’s anti-LGBTQ+ employment policy.
Several seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, handing pride flags, notes and other pride items in protest of SPU’s “Employee Lifestyle Expectations” policy, which requires full-time staff to “reflect a traditional view on Biblical marriage and sexuality,” including barring them from participating in “same-sex sexual activity.” Some students also abstained from shaking his hand.
The move was organized by the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (ASSP) as part of an ongoing movement against the policies.
“The graduation demonstration was part of an ongoing series of actions that are being taken to protest the school’s anti-LGBTQ+ employment policies,” Chloe Guillot, a graduating student who has helped organize previous protests, told The Hill.
“So much of our college experience has been engulfed by this issue,” graduating senior Laur Lugos, former SPU student government president, also told The Seattle Times. “It just felt like this was the appropriate way to go out.”
Lugos, who helped organize the protest, also reportedly gave Menjares a handwritten note, telling him to resign. She added that she learned at the university to care for the people Christians “lock out.”
Video of the graduation, posted by ASSP, went viral on social media, which included a montage of the students handing the flags to Menjares.
“It was a wonderful day to celebrate with our graduates,” Menjares said in a statement to The Hill. “Those who took the time to give me a flag showed me how they felt and I respect their view.”
The flags were only the latest part of the growing movement in the university.
In late May, ASSP organized a sit-in at the campus administration building, Demaray Hall, outside of Menjares’ office, after the university voted to reaffirm the “Employee Lifestyle Expectations” policy. The protest is still ongoing, according to Fox 13 in Seattle.
“Many of us have been participating in a sit-in outside the president’s office for 3 weeks, and we didn’t want to shake the president’s hand because of the harm he has done to this campus alongside the other board of trustees members,” Guillot said. “So instead of shaking his hand, we decided to give him a pride flag as a symbol that we aren’t going anywhere and we aren’t going to stop fighting until this policy is changed.“