Baylor University isn’t exactly known for its timely response to the changing times. The world’s largest Baptist university didn’t lift a ban on dancing until 1996—that’s twelve years after Footloose and forty years after we first saw Elvis’s pelvis on national television. So some were surprised when Baylor removed its policy against “homosexual acts” from the school’s sexual misconduct policy.
The former policy specifically prohibited homosexual acts, calling them—alongside incest, sexual assault, and adultery—“misuses of God’s gift.” The new language drops these specifics, only stating “that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”
Marital fidelity, eh? Thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago, that includes married gay couples at Baylor, right? Maybe. Although the change at Baylor gained widespread recognition on Tuesday, the university’s board of regents quietly approved the updated policy in May, so they may not have had forthcoming federal marriage equality mandates in mind.
When asked what the change means for gay married couples, university spokesperson Lori Fogleman pointed the Dallas Morning News to the policy’s application section, which still references a 1963 Southern Baptist doctrine that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
So maybe put a hold on the parade. But it’s an inarguable improvement for a school that ranked eleventh on the Princeton Review’s 20 least LGBT friendly colleges. Texas A&M landed nineteenth on that 2014 list, while Rice University rounded out the 20 most LGBT friendly.
This May, the same month Baylor scrubbed the ban on “homosexual acts,” nondenominational Christian LeTourneau University in Longview changed its student-athlete handbook to bar public support of gay rights and “same-sex dating behaviors.” Under those rules, athletes in violation could be removed from the team and risk losing scholarships.
But the ability for faith-based colleges to discriminate against gay marriages could be short lived. Not if they want to keep their tax perks, at least. As same-sex marriage was being argued in front of SCOTUS, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that a previous case ruled colleges could lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed interracial marriages. Would that hold true for gay marriages?
That remains to be seen. And perhaps this move from Baylor was a preemptive protection against these new legal quandaries. But let’s, for the moment, give it the simple benefit of the doubt that it is moving with the times.
(images via Flickr/Joseph Wingenfeld)