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Seattle Grads Protested their University’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Policy with Pride Flags

Students at Seattle Pacific University handed Pride Flags to their University President in response to an anti-LGBTQ employment policy.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Tik Tok/@engaygetheculture

Using their graduation as an opportunity to protest, dozens of Seattle Pacific students handed their University President Pride flags to denounce their University’s anti-LGBTQ+ employment policy.

Their public demonstration comes after students, staff and alumni had staged a sit-in at the President’s office for 19 days due to the school’s board of trustees’ employment policy that discriminates against LGBTQ+ people, The Seattle Times (3 June) reports. 

With 2.7 million views and over half a million likes, the TikTok sees students receive their graduation certificate, pose for a photo and hand the President a hand-sized Pride rainbow flag. 

@engaygetheculture We’ve also been sleeping outside his office for 19 days in a gay sit-in but he usually doesn’t say hi to us. #pride #pridemonth #lgbtq #gay #graduation #fyp #seattle #changethepolicy #hiregayprofs ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

The TikTok’s on-screen text reads: “POV: the president of your university thinks being LGBTQ+ is a ‘lifestyle choice’ and a ‘morality issue’ so you decide to give him a gift at graduation.”

Many online have praised the actions of the students, including author Dianna E. Anderson who tweeted: “Love this direct action that students at Seattle Pacific took at graduation to protest the president being homophobic.”

Seattle Pacific University, which is affiliated with the conservative Free Methodist Church but separate from the United Methodist Church, was met with contention when the school upheld their ‘Employee Lifestyle Expectations’ policy.

The policy, which “prohibits full-time staff from participating in ‘same-sex sexual activity,’ among other things,” was enforced when nursing professor Jeaux Rinedahl said he was denied a tenured position at the school because he is gay. 

Rinedahl sued Seattle Pacific University but the case was settled out of court.

Last year, Seattle Pacific University’s Faculty Senate voted against an update of the policy and released a statement that read: “SPU’s employee conduct expectations continue to reflect a traditional view on Biblical marriage and sexuality, as an expression of long-held church teaching and biblical interpretation.”

Numerous board members have resigned in the midst of the controversy and there have been widespread school protests. 

Laur Lugos, the student government president at SPU who is helping to organise the protests, told local TV station KIRO: “We are a generation that believes really strongly in a cause.”

“And so we are learning how to make that happen as we go. It does not end when campus shuts down. We have students who are still here who are going to continue this fight for us,” she continued.

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.