Equality Act may impact private schools like JBU

On Feb. 25 of this year, the Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives and will move on next to the Senate. This bill, as summarized on, “prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.”

If passed, this could affect the current policies at JBU, whose Covenant states that “Biblical marriage is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, and therefore romantic relationships are reserved for a man and woman,” and does not endorse or allow students at JBU to be in LGBTQ relationships on campus. JBU includes this under its “honoring and affirming scripture” section, citing a religious exemption which may not continue under the Equality Act.

Tracy Balzer, Director of Christian Formation, commented on LGBTQ students at JBU, saying, “The JBU community should know about JBU’s position towards the LGBTQ community.  And that is simply that we are constantly thinking about ways we can communicate to LGBTQ students that they are seen, loved and we are glad to have them here on campus.  Whoever chooses JBU for their college experience should be known and welcomed as a part of our community, regardless of faith commitment, sexual identity or ethnicity.”

Though students may be welcome to be on campus, they are not necessarily welcome to engage in a lifestyle where they are allowed to freely express themselves. Balzer recognizes this can cause difficulty for LGBTQ students and wants them to know, “We respect that diversity can make it difficult to abide by the community covenant for students identifying as LGBTQ and to regularly be reminded of JBU’s commitment to the historical and biblical interpretation of human relationships with regard to sexuality,” Balzer said. “But as always, our goal is to respond to each other with grace and truth, and to hear each other and support each other with the compassion of Christ. With that in mind, it’s my hope that any LGBTQ student would know that I am eager to be a listening ear for anyone feeling that they are excluded or mistreated in any way, or just need someone to talk and pray with.”

As this bill moves forward, it’s important to recognize it will affect students at JBU, especially students who identify with the LGBTQ community, publicly or privately. Balzer concludes, “College can be a rough time for anyone, and I recognize that can especially be true for students who feel they are on the margins because of their sexual identity or the questions they are asking about sexuality.  There is no reason for any student to feel alone at JBU; that’s what I would want everyone in our community to know.”

Photo courtesy of Susan Walsh