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Georgetown Faces Dilemma Over Gay Rights

January 16, 1988|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, in ordering the Jesuit-controlled Georgetown University to open its facilities to a student homosexual rights group, has placed the school "between a rock and a hard place" said Sister Alice Gallin, executive director of the Assn. of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States finds itself caught between the rock of church teachings and the hard place of secular law and policy as it confronts the host of issues--human rights, legal, medical and moral--that cluster around the issues of human sexuality, especially homosexuality.

And the tensions have exposed some longstanding but generally invisible divisions among the 300 bishops who make up the hierarchy of the American church.

The Georgetown case arose eight years ago when the Washington school sought city approval of a $127 million tax-exempt bond issue. Homosexual groups on campus, however, sought to block the approval, charging that Georgetown's refusal to recognize the groups violated District of Columbia anti-bias laws

The case set up a confrontation over competing sets of rights--Georgetown's religious freedom to doctrinally oppose homosexuality and the students' and city's interest in preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Although Georgetown has lost every major ruling in the long court case, the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the merits of the issues involved. Last week's decision simply vacated a temporary stay and ordered the school to comply with a lower court ruling ordering it to grant the homosexual groups access to the school's facilities. Georgetown has not yet decided whether to appeal the full case to the high court.

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