University of South Carolina officials have added protections for gay and lesbian employees to an existing policy that forbids discrimination based on age, race, sex, religion, and national origin. The change ends a long debate about the school's nondiscrimination policy. The university's faculty senate had unsuccessfully pushed for the change several times in the past decade. But former school president John Palms argued that adding sexual-orientation protections to the policy could make the school vulnerable to lawsuits. Spokesman Russ McKinney said officials no longer believe that's the case, noting that the College of Charleston and several South Carolina municipalities include gay men and lesbians in nondiscrimination policies.
The issue heated up in 2001 go when longtime trustee Michael Mungo opposed an attempt by the faculty senate to change the policy. Mungo suggested gay men and lesbians were "trying to take over the world" and vowed trustees would block the move. Trustee Miles Loadholt said changing the policy was the right thing to do, and most board members support his decision. The change was approved in November by Sorensen. Board approval is not required.