By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com March 21 2014 1:23 PM ET
A gay college student in Missouri was denied readmission to the Baptist university he previously attended after he took time off to manage his health issues — during which time he also came out as gay on Facebook.
After Chase Martinson took a leave of absence from his nursing studies at Hannibal-LaGrange University to deal with his health issues, he expected to be able to re-enroll at the school, since he was halfway through his studies. But after receiving an initial letter of acceptance in January, complete with an invitation to apply for the school's honors program, Martinson received a second letter indicating that he was no longer eligible for admission — presumably because he's openly gay, which the university's student handbook describes as a "misuse of God's gift."
"I just wanted to be me, and I never had any idea this would happen," Martinson told the St. Louis Riverfront Times. "I thought I was already in, but then they send me this letter saying, 'Just kidding.'"
That second letter, a copy of which Martinson provided to the Times, states that "Admittance is open to academically and morally qualified students. The University is committed to the spiritual, as well as the academic and social development of individuals."
The letter then notes that students must abide by the "student life guidelines," and directs Martinson to see pages 20 and 27 of that handbook, which establish the school's "standard of sexual conduct," explaining that the university "upholds the traditional biblical view that it is God's intent that heterosexual union is the only acceptable expression of sexuality and must be reserved for marriage." The code goes on to list "misuses of God's love" that are prohibited, including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse, incest, "fornication" outside marriage, and homosexuality.
The secondary reference lists homosexuality among forbidden instances of "sexual impropriety," but goes further to seemingly ban any positive discussion of LGBT identities: "The promotion, and advocacy of, or ongoing practice of a homosexual lifestyle is contrary to institution expectations and is therefore prohibited." That same section also prohibits "Excessive public displays of affection," and the viewing of pornography.
For his part, Martinson is disappointed, but knows he has no legal recourse. Missouri's antidiscrimination law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, but even if it did, the private, religiously affiliated school would likely be exempt from adhering to such policies.
Martinson says he will enroll at the University of Missouri-St. Louis for next year. "There's really nothing I can do. It's just really sad," Martinson told the Times. "I have no desire to go back to that school."