On the student body president-elect’s plan to pass new non-discrimination policy

The Boyle-McGuire ticket was recently elected to represent the Notre Dame student body during the 2019-2020 academic year. They have an ambitious platform and some excellent ideas. Our points of agreement include rescinding Theodore McCarrick’s honorary degree (which thankfully, the administration has done since their election), starting a dining hall food waste campaign, bringing back the donate-a-meal initiative, fixing sidewalks, and allowing students to use flex points for laundry (this one is huge). These proposals and others seem to me to be good steps the school can take to improve university life, maintain moral integrity, and cultivate a more mindful and responsible student body.

But what about the ticket’s “top priority”? Boyle and McGuire want to extend the school’s nondiscrimination policy to cover sexual orientation and gender identity (what’s known as SOGI policy).

However well-intentioned it might be, Boyle-McGuire’s proposal would make for bad policy.

The proposal springs from that innate and beautiful human desire to observe the golden rule. We agree, I hope, that all people are worthy of love, and that this worthiness isn’t contingent upon anyone’s opinion of what is right or wrong, good or bad. It’s worth pointing out that our community is already committed, at least in theory, to treating all people justly––in line with the teaching that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God, and following the rule that we are to love one another as God has loved, does love, and will continue to love us.

But we should ask some basic questions to evaluate any proposed policy change: Do we need it? Is it based on good reasoning?

In something of an explanation, Boyle told The Observer, “If we leave and are able to include both sexual orientation and gender identity into this non-discrimination clause, we can say that now fully students do have this legal backing and they have something to point to when administrators or people at this University may lack in support for them or their policies.”

That explanation isn’t particularly clear, and that’s a problem for any policy.

Moreover, the Boyle-McGuire proposal includes a “student run ‘Civil Rights Commission’.”  They propose to “hear complaints,” though it’s not actually clear how this commission would work, who would participate in it, and what sort and scope of authority it would possess.

What, then, might their proposal do?

The recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, arose from the similar Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA). In reviewing the case, the Colorado Court of Appeals said––and the Supreme Court didn’t question––that “discrimination on the basis of one’s opposition to same-sex marriage is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Of course, it is not likely that Notre Dame would interpret and apply the policy in this way. But the understanding the court gave has been used not only to coerce florists, photographers, bakers, t-shirt vendors and more to act against their consciences, but also to threaten educational institutions with revocation of accreditation and tax-exempt status. (And these institutions remain vulnerable.)

The policy would also call into question Notre Dame’s separate sex bathrooms, dormitories, a cappella groups, and sports teams. Can these continue to exist under such a policy?

The answer, in both the political and legal realms, remains unclear. Sometimes the answer is no––even, potentially, in churches. In terms of this community, Boyle’s proposal doesn’t specify and her reasoning doesn’t clarify. While I suspect she would want many aspects of current Notre Dame tradition and policy to be left alone, her proposal has its logical end in the opposite direction.

Here’s what Boyle and McGuire likely don’t know, but should consider.

In the world outside the Notre Dame bubble, such policy is used to treat certain beliefs about human nature and sexuality––such as the immutability of biological sex and the conjugal understanding of marriage––as punishable discrimination.

Indeed, the significance of such a policy goes far beyond that of the legacy of a Notre Dame student body president. Many prominent supporters of SOGI laws intend and use the laws to target religious believers and institutions. They assume that support for traditional marriage or a belief in the immutability of biological sex are as illegitimate as racism. They treat conscience-based, good-will refusals to participate in same-sex weddings, to treat the serious condition of gender dysphoria with permanent medical procedures, and to let transgender males into female spaces as not only wrong but punishable by law.

The point of SOGI laws is this: people and institutions that hold beliefs about human nature and sexuality different from the current progressive standard are not to be tolerated in the public square.  Tim Gill, the biggest donor (over $400 million) to efforts to pass such laws, told Rolling Stone, “We’re going into the hardest states in the country…We’re going to punish the wicked.”

Who’s the wicked?

Is it the Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts, Illinois, Philadelphia, D.C., and elsewhere that have been forced to close because they decline or have declined to place children with same-sex couples? One might think one can disagree with their belief in the distinctiveness of mother and father, and still allow room for these agencies to exist and help children in need.

If such policy is used to “impose sexual orthodoxy,” as critics of SOGI policy argue, then this orthodoxy is directly opposed to Church (both faith and reason-based) teaching on human nature and sexuality.

Why, then, would we want to self-impose policies which are intended and used to push Catholics and other people of faith––and any people or institutions that question the sexual-progressive orthodoxy––out of the public square?

I respectfully urge the president-elect and vice president-elect to reconsider their proposal.

Nick Marr is a junior from San Diego, CA. He lives in Knott Hall and studies history and political theory. As a 10 year old, he argued with a Supreme Court justice about who was a bigger Notre Dame fan. You can reach him at nmarr@nd.edu.