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Belmont University Faculty Wants Discussion of Sexual Identity Issues

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Professors at Belmont University, where a gay soccer coach recently resigned, want a campus discussion of sexual identity issues.

The Faculty Senate approved a resolution late Monday in support of gay members of the campus community. The resolution also invites administration officials to discuss the issue.

Belmont officials have denied that Lisa Howe was forced to step down after telling her women’s soccer team members she is gay. Howe’s players say she was forced out by the university.

“The Senate believes that the sexual identity of individuals should not impact that person’s standing on campus,” states the resolution, which was passed unanimously.

Belmont spokesman Greg Pillon did not immediately return a telephone call Tuesday seeking comment. He told The Tennessean of Nashville on Monday night that he had not seen the resolution and could not comment.

Among those supporting the resolution was Nathan Griffith, an associate professor of political science at Belmont.

He said that the university’s hiring policy does not explicitly ban gay employees and that there should be faculty discussion if that is changing.

“We want to be part of the conversation before we settle what that policy should be,” Griffith said.

The Faculty Senate tabled a proposal Griffith offered in which the faculty would have asked Belmont President Bob Fisher to clearly define the university’s policy on gay faculty and staff. The professor said employees should know up front if they could be fired for their sexual orientation.

“If that is going to be a condition of being employed here, people need to know,” he said. “People need to be able to form reasonable expectations.”

The proposal that passed asks only for campus dialogue about the issue.

Howe told the team Thursday that she was resigning.

Erica Carter, a senior on the team, said Howe told her and her roommate that officials had given her the choice to resign or be terminated because she had told the team her partner was pregnant with a baby due in May.

The university’s mission statement, posted on its website, identifies Belmont as a “student-centered Christian community” empowering students of “diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world.”

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