Back in June, Catholic University President John Garvey announced via an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that, starting in the Fall 2011 semester, CU students would be living in same-sex dorms. He cited a few statistics about alcohol use and sex in coed versus single-gender dorms, and reached the conclusion that keeping boys and girls in separate residences will save our good, clean American youth from turning into a bunch of depressed, binge-drinking nymphomaniacs.
The rule, which was implemented as planned at the beginning of this academic year, hit its first road block when the school failed to see its student body take up the life of the teetotaler. And now, it appears that they have another, stronger force against them—D.C. law.
That law is the Human Rights Act, passed in 1977, which states that it is illegal for an institution to restrict or deny any service based on sex, in the same way that such is illegal based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. Last week, George Washington Law professor John Banzhat, who has somewhat made a career out of Human Rights Act cases, sent an intent-to-sue notice to President Garvey, citing that the new rule violates this law. The law allows for exceptions in the case where following it would prevent business from operating, but Banzhat says that, since the school has operated for decades with coed residence halls.
The act also contains a clause allowing for housing restriction by religious institutions, which is presumably the route which CUwill take to justify its new rule.
The religious exemption, however, has a history of not working so well for Catholic colleges. In 1980, the as-yet-unrecognized Gay People of Georgetown University, an ancestor of today’s GU Pride, sued the University, saying that its refusal to recognize their organization was a violation of the Human Rights Act. According to DCist, Banzhat said that Georgetown attempted to use its religious opposition to homosexuality to justify its decision not to recognize the organization, but their appeal was denied.
Preliminary legal proceedings, sans President Garvey, began on Friday, September 16. In the meantime, it’s our guess that CU students are too busy sneaking into opposite-sex dorms to notice.
Photo from Catholic News Agency.