Missouri university rejects nondiscrimination policy
March 20 2004 12:00 AM ET
Gays and lesbians at Southwest Missouri State were blocked again on Friday in their fight to get protection for sexual orientation added to the school's nondiscrimination policy. The university's board of governors refused to vote on a motion that would have ended a 12-year fight to protect gays and lesbians. The board's decision came a day after the university's president called homosexuality "a biological perversion" and said that adding sexual orientation to the university's nondiscrimination policy would wrongly protect a specific group of people. President John Keiser's position on homosexuality and stand against revising the nondiscrimination policy at Missouri's second-largest public university was delivered during a debate with two leaders of Lambda Alliance, which represents gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered faculty and staff on the Springfield campus.
The school's policy already protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, or veteran status. The university has rejected similar efforts since 1991 by the Lambda Alliance. While the debate was on the policy change, Lambda Alliance and some in the audience were focused on Keiser's personal beliefs about homosexuality. The Springfield News-Leader published a letter Wednesday written by Keiser in 1995 to a major donor who had questioned the appearance of a gay speaker on campus. Keiser, who outlined his beliefs on homosexuality in the letter, reiterated Thursday night that he believes homosexuality is biologically perverse based on the inability of same-sex couples to procreate. "What that statement means is that to create, you need a male and a female to perpetuate every race," said Keiser, who has maintained that his personal beliefs have nothing to do with his position on the policy. His answer drew groans from many of the approximately 400 people watching the debate at the university's Robert Plaster Student Union, named for the donor Keiser addressed in his letter. "I'm sorry that you see me as a biological perversion," said Holly Baggett, president of Lambda Alliance, who spoke in support of the change. "I'm sorry that you don't feel we're valid members of the community. The one thing we do
know is that history is on our side."
After Friday's board decision, Bagget said the group is not giving up. "We will be back tomorrow. That's the problem with this whole thing," she said. Jim Giglio, chairman of the faculty senate, said changing the policy would show that the university respects diversity. "We would be ending a vexing controversy that has gone on for far too long," he said.