Undergrad Jayce Marcus filed a Title IX complaint against George Fox University in April stating that the school discriminated against him by not allowing him to live in a men’s dorm because he is a transgendered male.
The US Department of Education ruled in May that the anti-discrimination laws do not require the Christian university to allow a female-to-male transgender to live in a male dorm, reports Katherine Timpf for Campus Reform.
The school was granted the exemption on the grounds that the university is a “Christ-centered community”. According to Marcus’ attorney, Paul Southwick, the decision was made quickly, which is unusual for a ‘religious exemption’, according to a report by LGBTQ Nation.
Exemptions historically take years to get, according to Southwick, but George Fox received theirs in just a few months. He says the school applied for the exemption “in secret” while still negotiating the housing dispute with Marcus, and “a mere four days before Jayce filed his complaint” with the DOE.
Title IX was passed in 1972. It prohibits discrimination based on sex, and in 2010 it was updated to protect LGBT students from sex discrimination. This would have normally protected someone in Marcus’ situation, but due to the exemption the school received the DOE ruled in its favor.
Southwick stated that he was disappointed that the DOE failed to let he and his client know the school had filed for the exemption. Southwick and Marcus only found out the school had done so after the DOE closed Marcus’ complaint, reports Amelia Templeton for Oregon Public Broadcasting.
A spokesman for George Fox wrote in a statement that providing housing for transgendered students is a difficulty for universities across the country.
“The university sought this exemption to preserve its right to draw on its religious convictions to handle situations related to students experiencing gender identity issues. Other colleges have received similar Title IX exemptions in the past.”
George Fox University, owned by a Quaker group known as the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends, sited in its request for exemption that it “cannot in good conscience support or encourage an individual to live in conflict with biblical principles.”
Marcus, who grew up going to church, doesn’t see it the same way George Fox does. He believes God and Jesus are accepting of everyone and doesn’t see a conflict between his Christian faith and the fact that he is a transgendered man.
The school offered Marcus an on-campus single apartment, but Marcus declined because he wanted to live with friends.
He plans to continue to attend the school where he feels supported by the student community and he wants to start a conversation between the LGBTQ community and people of faith.
Southwick said that he plans to appeal the DOE’s decision to give George Fox University the exemption to Title IX.