In September, Christine Irvine, a 26-year-old junior visual communication major, approached Loyola University Chicago in hopes of holding her and her fiancee’s same-sex civil union ceremony on the Lake Shore Campus in Piper Hall or Palm Court in Mundelein Center.
Loyola’s Conference Services policy states that numerous venues on three of Loyola’s campuses can be used “for ceremonies legally recognized by the State of Illinois.” Civil unions have been legal in Illinois since the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act went into effect in June 2011. However, Irvine’s request was denied.
In response, Irvine started a petition on Change.org titled “End the Discriminatory Policy Banning Same-Sex Ceremonies on Campus.” At press time, the petition had reached 2,832 signatures from people across the United States and around the world.
Then, on Nov. 5, Illinois legislature voted on a bill to legalize gay marriage in the state, and Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign this bill into law on Nov. 20. After it’s signed, the law would go into effect on June 1, 2014, and Illinois would become the 16th state to allow same-sex couples to wed.
This new law means that same-sex marriages are legally recognized by the state. In turn, under Loyola’s current policy, this would allow for same-sex marriages to take place on all campus venues other than Madonna della Strada Chapel, which has a separate policy governed by the rules and beliefs of the Catholic Church.
According to Maeve Kiley, the director of communications for Loyola University Chicago, the university has not yet made changes to the current Conference Services policy, as the legalization of gay marriage in Illinois will not go into effect until June 2014, but it is currently discussing the policy now that state law is expected to change.
The PHOENIX Editorial Board would like to use this opportunity to encourage the university to uphold its current policy and permit all ceremonies recognized by the state to occur in its venues, with the exception of Madonna della Strada Chapel.
We realize the importance of the separation of Madonna della Strada Chapel from the other wedding venues Loyola offers, and are not advising Loyola to act against the Catholic Church. However, we believe that the other areas of campus, those areas that serve religions other than Catholicism on a daily basis, should continue to adhere to the current Conference Services policy.
This would mean that prospective couples, both same-sex and heterosexual, could choose from seven locations on the Lake Shore Campus, three on the Water Tower Campus and the Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills, Ill., for their wedding ceremonies. At the Lake Shore Campus, venues include Crown Center, Donovan Reading Room, McCormick Lounge, Mundelein Center, Palm Court, Piper Hall and Schmidt Multipurpose Room; and at the Water Tower Campus, venues include Beane Ballroom, Kasbeer Hall and Regents Hall.
Any change in the current policy so that same-sex marriage ceremonies would not be permitted or would be discouraged in any way from being held on Loyola’s campuses would directly violate Loyola’s mission as a university that “does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability or any other characteristic protected by applicable law,” as outlined in the Community Standards.
While we recognize that Loyola has the right to change its policy in light of the recent change in Illinois law, we believe that the current policy should remain in effect as it is written in order to maintain Loyola’s Jesuit values of inclusion and social justice.
In addition to simply upholding the policy honoring all ceremonies recognized by the state, the university needs to enforce this policy without exception. Marriages should not be examined on a case-by-case basis.
The PHOENIX Editorial Board respects Loyola as a Jesuit Catholic institution; however, we believe that the history of the Jesuits as innovators and progressivists is just as important as maintaining the traditional Catholic values.
Jesuit schools began spreading through Europe in the late 1540s, and since then they have served areas with the greatest needs — from East Los Angeles to the Micronesia region, which is comprised of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. Jesuits have always been committed to serving the interests of all people, regardless of faith and culture.
They have made advancements in various areas of education — science, mathematics, art, philosophy — as well as in religion, all the while looking forward and adapting to best accommodate and serve the greater good on a local and global scale.
The university needs to keep this progressive nature in mind during discussion and re-evaluation of the policy.
In choosing to stand by its current policy, Loyola ensures that it will remain an accepting space for all students, staff and community members, such as Irvine, and one that promotes equality and compassion in accordance with our collective virtue of social justice. Loyola can maintain space for its traditional Catholic beliefs, as well as its progressive Jesuit values.