Samford University, a private Christian institution in Alabama, has rejected the formation of an LGBTQ+ organization on the grounds that it does not align with the university’s beliefs and that it may provide LGBTQ+ students with opportunities to “advocate for a larger agenda,” according to a recent letter from University President Beck Taylor.
The group, OUTLaw, is comprised of more than 50 students at the university’s Cumberland School of Law. The students submitted an application to officially form the group last fall. Samford sent a rejection letter following a meeting between OUTLaw members and the university administration.
“If by ‘agenda’ President Taylor means that we intend to let the LGBTQ+ population at Samford know that they are welcomed and loved just the way they are, then by all means his accusations are well-founded,” the group wrote in a statement Monday. “But in contrast to the imaginary ‘harm’ contemplated by President Taylor, the LGBTQ+ students at Samford’s law school—in addition to those in its undergraduate program—must now deal with the real and immediate harms posed by the anti-LGBTQ+ stigma which the University’s position endorses.”
The group has created a petition to pressure the university into approving its status as an official campus organization. Without such recognition, OUTLaw cannot participate in the same activities as other identity and affinity groups, host guest speakers, or reserve rooms in the law library for meetings.
This incident is not the first time the university has refused to formally recognize an LGBTQ+ group on campus. In 2017, Samford administrators denied recognition to an undergraduate LGBTQ+ group despite receiving significant support from the faculty senate.
“It’s not shocking because it’s more of the same of what we’ve seen, insofar as discriminatory practices,” alumna Brit Blalock and founder of Safe Samford, an unofficial LGBTQ+ student support group, told news site AL.com “But what’s particularly strange about this is it’s happening inside the law school, which has not been bound to the same student organization process that the undergrads have.”