Baylor University has dropped language in its sexual conduct policy specifically outlawing sexual relationships between same-sex partners, though the university does not appear to be endorsing gay and lesbian couples or sex outside of marriage.
The university’s sexual misconduct policy previously listed “homosexual acts” among the sexually related conduct that could prompt disciplinary action, along with adultery, fornication, incest, sexual abuse, harassment and assault.
But that clause is dropped under a new sexual conduct policy approved by Baylor’s Board of Regents at its last meeting. The policy now no longer outlines specific actions that would be considered violations.
Instead, it simply states that, “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,” and that students, faculty and staff relationships should be consistent with that position.
“These changes were made because we didn’t believe the language reflected the university’s caring community,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman wrote in an email. “The university has a responsibility to articulate clearly and consistently Baylor’s commitment to its values as a Christian university.”
Fogleman would not elaborate on whether the policy opens the door for married same-sex couples at Baylor in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling knocking down bans on same-sex marriages.
She instead referred to the application section on the policy, which states that it is to be “interpreted in a manner consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message of 1963,” the doctrine outlining the faith principles governing the Southern Baptist Convention.
The “Family” section of that document states that, “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel for sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”
The change comes nearly two years after the Student Senate passed a resolution advocating for the sexual misconduct policy to drop the “homosexual acts” clause and replace it with “deviate sexual intercourse.” Proponents of that change, which ultimately was vetoed by the then-student body president, said it still would have upheld the university’s position against extramarital sexual relationships without specifically targeting same-sex couples.
Fogleman wrote that the decision to revise the policy was not in response to the Student Senate’s actions. The change was part of a larger effort to review and evaluate all university policies and make amendments as deemed necessary.
“An organized effort to review and keep current the university’s policies began several years ago to make sure Baylor has the necessary policies and processes in place to comply with the many legal and ethical mandates to which the university is subject as an institution,” Fogleman said in the email, adding that the process began in 2013.
Baylor graduate Trenton Garza, who introduced the resolution to change the sexual misconduct policy in November 2013, said the new language makes the policy apply equally to all students instead of putting a spotlight on same-sex couples that could result in them feeling unfairly ostracized.
He noted that the previous policy also explicitly stated that sexual relationships are designed for procreation, which would be a slight to heterosexual couples who may have to contend with infertility problems.
“In this case, they are applying things universally, to where it’s equal, it’s fair, and by removing anything that would enumerate one subset of students and could be used to subject them to any sort of negative feelings at Baylor,” said Garza, who now works in political and marketing consulting.
Garza said while the revised policy still may not mark a shift in Baylor’s stance on same-sex relationships, it’s a step toward inclusiveness on campus. He said it is also positive that it has been changed into a conduct policy instead of a misconduct policy, phrasing that carried a negative connotation.
“The fact that the university took the initiative to nix and replace the wording of the previous code and to establish this new policy, I think that is a sign of acknowledgement that the previous code was egregious or was (creating) a sense of separation among its students,” he said.