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Catholic University decides to let an LGBT Awareness Month event happen after all

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk.
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk.
(Focus Features)

Catholic University of America recently announced that it would allow a student group to reschedule a showing of Milk, the 2008 Academy Award-winning biographical film about gay politician Harvey Milk.

Earlier this month, higher-ups at the school, in Washington DC, put the brakes on the College Democrats' event. In addition to the screening, it was to feature remarks from a Catholic University professor and an alumnus on how the Democratic Party has been shaped by LGBT issues.

The university explained its decision by claiming the event, which had originally been pitched to them as an educational activity, crossed the line to advocacy. As Michael O'Loughlin reported in Crux, this wasn't the first time CUA has appealed to the education/advocacy distinction while disallowing an LGBT activity on campus.

Many people were critical of what they saw as Catholic University's decision to cancel an LGBT-affirming event. Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winner who wrote the screenplay for Milk, weighed in on Twitter:

This morning, Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas issued a statement saying that the school is now giving permission to the College Democrats to reschedule their event.

Earlier today, The Catholic University of America's Director of Campus Activities met with the Chair and another leader of the College Democrats chapter to discuss their proposed educational program about the impact of the gay rights movement on the Democratic Party. Following a discussion and review of the program's educational intent, the Director of Campus Activities approved the rescheduling of the event.

Nakas added that the student group said they will try to host the event "hopefully by the end of October." This detail is important given that October is LGBT Awareness Month.

The original flyer advertised the event as a "Kick Off to LGBT Awareness Month." This flyer, claimed the university, was one of the reasons the event was originally postponed. But as Jackson Tovar, Communications Director for CUA's College Democrats, told me over the phone, the flyer was submitted to and approved by the Office of Campus Activities in mid-September. In other words, Tovar alleges, the university saw the LGBT-friendly flyer weeks before their last-minute decision.

Update: This article has been clarified to show that CUA's postponement of the Milk screening was never intended to be a cancelation, as spokesperson Nakas told me in an email. Referring me to the school's October 2 statement, he said, "It is and has been the University's position all along that the event should be rescheduled without delay, preferably in October."

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