Anti-Gay Protester Removed From Georgetown Campus for 'Offensive Speech' · 16 December 2003

By Aaron Terrazas--The Hoya, 12/05/03

The Department of Public Safety removed an individual from Red Square who was distributing offensive material against homosexuality on Nov. 20, university officials announced in a broadcast e-mail sent last Tuesday.

Easily noticed by their large red banners displaying the group's title and coat-of-arms, three demonstrators from the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) stood outside the Healy Gates and one demonstrator protested in Red Square, distributing literature that contained anti-homosexual messages.

They also solicited signatures on a petition that requested an overturn of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Lawrence v. Texas. The case, more commonly known as the Texas Sodomy Case, implicitly legalized sodomy between two consenting individuals.

Unaffiliated with any on-campus group, Pennsylvania-based TFP is a Catholic organization that is "concerned about the multiple crises shaking every aspect of American life," according to their Web site. "The American TFP was formed to resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and property."

After university administrators were notified about an individual's presence in Red Square, officials from DPS peacefully escorted the protester out of Red Square.

Todd Olson, interim vice president of student affairs, said that the situation in Red Square was addressed because it was on campus.

The university's authority, however, did not extend to the other protesters on public streets.

"Red Square is a free speech zone for the campus community," Olson said. "Even given that, the messages this group was espousing were, in our view, grossly offensive and inflammatory and thus not protected in any case."

Olson's e-mail emphasized that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community enjoys "the right to study, work, and live in a campus environment of respect and protection," he wrote. "Intolerance and invective have no place at Georgetown. As a Catholic, Jesuit university, we live our commitment to respect, tolerance, inclusion, and care for the whole person."

Elena Stewart (SFS '07), who identified herself as bisexual, confronted the protesters after they asked her to sign their petition.

"Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students felt particularly isolated that day," she said. After the publication of a letter to the editor of THE HOYA describing her experience, Stewart said she received many letters expressing sympathy and support, but also a few expressing disgust.

"I don't give a damn about the wackos who came here," she said. "But I do give a damn about the people who live here."

Recognizing that opposing viewpoints exist, she said, "Argue with us using an intellectual argument, but don't lose sight that you are talking to people, not ideas or representations."

GUSA Representative Luis Torres (COL '05) said he was pleased that the university reacted by removing the individual from university property.

"They were here to incite hatred and there is a major difference between free speech and inciting hatred," Torres said, speaking of the TFP.

William Godwin (COL '07) said that he also agreed with the university's decision to remove the protester, but added that if the protester had been from Georgetown, he "would have had every right to stay."

Many students agreed with Godwin in supporting the university action against the protester because he was not a member of the university community.

Kate McDonald (COL '04), co-facilitator for Outspoken, the LGBQT support group, also lauded the university for taking action and said that it is representative of changes within the university.

"The university seems to be getting more proactive in dealing with these things. There have been a lot of changes in the past four years and I feel much more part of the campus community." Stewart, however, said she was less convinced. "We can deceive ourselves into thinking that our battles are won, but homophobia is still a reality."