By Bob Allen
Baptist-affiliated Baylor University has quietly removed a ban on “homosexual acts” from its sexual conduct code.
In a change last May that went unreported until a story in the Waco Tribune-Herald July 2, Baylor’s board of regents amended the sexual conduct policy to read: “Baylor will be guided by the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity. Thus, it is expected that Baylor students, faculty and staff will engage in behaviors consistent with this understanding of human sexuality.”
That language is similar to the old policy, which specifically referred to “heterosexual” marriage relationships, but it omits previous examples of policy violations such as “sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts.” It also drops a statement affirming the purpose of sex as “the procreation of human life,” language criticized in the past as insensitive to couples struggling with infertility.
Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media communications, said the change is part of an ongoing review “to ensure that the university has the necessary policies and processes in place to comply with the many legal and ethical mandates to which universities are subject as institutions.” She said a review of the sexual conduct policy was contemplated for a couple of years, because officials didn’t believe the language in the old policy “reflected Baylor’s caring community.”
Two years ago the Baylor Student Senate called on the university to drop the phrase “homosexual acts” from the policy and replace it with “non-marital consensual deviate sexual intercourse.” The student body president vetoed the resolution, citing doubts the board of regents would sign off on the change and concern that there wasn’t input from the entire student body.
Most of that debate centered not on any substantial change to moral expectations of students but rather that it wasn’t necessary to single out gays for condemnation. Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA draft who was discouraged from revealing her lesbian orientation while she played at Baylor, wrote of her disappointment in a 2014 memoir In My Skin.
“I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor, to show my school pride, but it’s hard to do that — it’s hard to stand up and say, ‘Baylor is the best!’ — when the administration has a written policy against homosexuality,” Griner wrote in the book. “I’ve spent too much of my life being made to feel like there’s something wrong with me. And no matter how much support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn’t erase all the pain I felt there.”
In 2014 the Princeton Review ranked Baylor among the nation’s 20 most “LGBT unfriendly” colleges and universities.
The change stops short of fully recognizing same-sex marriage. An application clause says the policy will be interpreted “in a manner consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message of 1963.” Fogleman said that includes a 1998 amendment on the family defining marriage “as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”
Fogleman said university officials “are pleased with the recent changes to the policy language and that it states more plainly the expectations of the university.”