Despite the discrimination the student group is accused of, previous appeals have not gone well for the university, and fallout has led to some dangerous implementations of the law.
The whole case started back in 2017, when an openly gay student sought a leadership position within the Business Leaders in Christ (BLiC), a group that promotes future entrepreneurs with Christian values. The group blocked the student from a leadership position based on the students' sexual orientation.
The student complained to the university and things escalated from there.
@reachjulieroys @PeterLaBarbera @uiowa Oh, so discrimination is ok if it targets a gay student? But bad if it targets a Christian? Huh.— James Mann (@James Mann) 1550000526.0
Can’t take up that bandwidth reserved to defend Business Leaders in Christ’s abuse of First Amendment rights.… https://t.co/jr9DQHt0S5— Regan King (@Regan King) 1570373624.0
The crux of the issue for the student group is the ability to discriminate their selection of leadership based on a specific interpretation of their belief. They laid out a "statement of faith" that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
This is despite the fact that there are many LGBTQ+ people who are also religious.
However, the university did themselves no favors in this case. The BLiC was deregistered on grounds of violating the school's human rights policy and discriminating based on protected criteria.
The lawyers for BLiC argued that this was applied unevenly, as fraternities are allowed to select leaders and membership based on gender and other groups were allowed to select based on race and national origin.
Attorney Eric Baxter lays out his case in a Twitter thread.
3. UI also let fraternities—the biggest, most popular groups on campus—select both leaders and members based on sex… https://t.co/lbJMh9D9CK— Eric Baxter (@Eric Baxter) 1600803376.0
This is what has led to issues with the case in the past. A previous ruling in 2019 found that the school was well within their rights to de-register the student group based on their human rights policy but were wrong to enforce it unevenly across student groups.
Despite the BLiC requesting monetary damages, Judge Stephanie Rose sided with the University of Iowa on this point, and awarded the group only a symbolic $1, and dismissed more than half the groups' claims.
There is a lot of nuance to this issue.
@shanevanderhart @uiowa Seems under reported. I agree with you on the facts for sure. No religion should be censo… https://t.co/4smflGMQeK— JB (@JB) 1600867042.0
@christo52027324 @cnalive @EWTN not sure what side you're on here— G M Dundee-Hausman (@G M Dundee-Hausman) 1600945714.0
Still, the partial wins the group has been receiving and the consistently upheld assertion that the university failed to apply their rules evenly has emboldened the religious right. Iowa even passed a law specifically to protect "freedom of speech" for religious groups on campus and paving the way for discrimination.
What will happen next remains to be seen. The fallout from this case is particularly important, as it will see if freedom of speech includes allowing for discrimination based on protected status.
Despite the outcry from the religious right, there's a lot more discrimination happening against LGBTQ people.
@MTD76 @grantdon12 @BrendanOde Almost immediately after Trump took office in 2017, the administration rolled back a… https://t.co/QSaNH9WOt0— Samuel Gervais (@Samuel Gervais) 1600379836.0
A publicly funded Christian university in #Tennessee, has revoked a student’s placement because he’s gay. Alex Dur… https://t.co/otFwbuddAj— Pinksixty (@Pinksixty) 1595667640.0
#Headteacher #expels #gay #straightA #student because it’s what ‘#Jesus would want’. - No #TonyJeffrey Jesus would… https://t.co/JrdDDflMPL— Susan Larson ♀️🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@Susan Larson ♀️🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️) 1599067376.0
Whatever the outcome, it's best we learn to treat each other with respect. We'll be watching this case with interest and based on previous rulings, a bit of dread.