Earnest opinions surround SB 1146
Biola seeks to connect with LGBT students. | Photo Illustration by Jacob Knopf/THE CHIMES
Sophomore psychology major Gena Schwimmer’s eyes saddened from behind her black-rimmed glasses as she described her disappointment over the modifications made to the bill she had hoped would give her safety at Biola, the school she loves.
Tension and Miscommuncation
“I wholeheartedly agree with the bill. I support it. It’s something that we need,” explained Schwimmer, a member of the Biolans’ Equal Ground, the LGBT group on Biola’s campus.
California Senate Bill 1146 brought varied reactions from within both the administration and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community at Biola University, resulting in tension and miscommunication between the two groups.
SB 1146, a bill presented by Senator Ricardo Lara, challenged California faith-based institutions with the accusation of mistreating LGBT students and with the plan to strictly limit religious requirements.
However, some of the LGBT students did not support the bill.
“I didn’t see anything in [the bill] that really felt like it would protect students without harming other students,” said Allison Schuster, Biola alumna and member of BEG.
A Vehement Stance
Biola administration took a vehement stance opposing the bill, to the extent that many administrative officials, including President Barry Corey, took serious action against it. They made regular public statements, urged students and alumni to write to the senators and worked along with the other faith-based California institutions to halt the bill.
“SB 1146 would harm students who deserve the option of attending colleges and universities whose mission and education practices align with their faith,” Corey said in a video Biola posted on June 25.
Little Hope of Change
The bill went through several revisions partly due to the opposition it received from the faith-based institutions. Currently, it stands as a transparency act, which the Biola administration supports. The Biola LGBT community holds little hope, however, that the current bill will bring much positive change for them.
They constantly fear revealing their sexual orientations in a community like Biola because they may lose friends or be ridiculed, according to Schuster. Many of them also expressed the fear of being expelled; however, vice president of University Communications and Marketing Lee Wilhite assures that would not happen.
“Biola has never expelled an LGBT student. That’s just not how we function,” explained Wilhite. “Each one of our students is valuable to us and each one we want to treat on a case by case basis.”
Biola would only expel an LGBT student if they did not abide by the code of conduct they signed when they first registered for the school. Some of the LGBT students believe that what the university considers appropriate conduct proves unfair.
“A heterosexual couple walking across Metzger Lawn at Biola can hold hands, but if there was a gay Christian couple who desired to hold hands on campus, even if they were being honorable in celibacy … they couldn’t do that,” said Erin Green, the executive director of BEG and a former Biola student.
Despite this, Green believes that Biola faculty responded well to the LGBT community after SB 1146 surfaced in the media. She can tell they are truly putting effort into showing love to the LGBT community.
Schwimer explained that she loves Biola despite their stance on homosexuality, and the number of negative responses she received from students regarding her sexuality have not defined her time here. She said that LGBT students attend Biola to learn about the Bible as much as anyone else.
“I love Biola. I don’t want to leave, Biola is my home. It’s my family. I finally found people that I was comfortable with that knew what I was going through,” Schwimer said.
Schwimer simply hopes that the Biola community invites discussion about the issue of homosexuality with LGBT students instead of arguing about it.
Student Government Association president Jessica Snow agrees that open conversation and purposeful listening between students and faculty will be the most helpful in easing the tension between the two groups.
“With conversation, it takes two people coming and planning to listen,” Snow said. “I think that just goes for both sides of any conversation here--just having grace and humility and listening well. You don’t know somebody’s experience until you ask them.”
Corey insists Biola wants to protect LGBT students’ rights and protect them from hate and discrimination. Corey and Biola’s administration want to establish harmony with the LGBT community because of the love of Jesus Christ.
“We stand ready to embrace our students and continue to provide a space to really have some great years here at Biola as they study and learn all they can,” Wilhite said on behalf of the administration.