Seattle Pacific University LGBTQ+ Protest Ends, Students Plan Legal Action

The 39-day protest concluded without any promise of change from the university, prompting protesters to prepare to sue the board of trustees.
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  • The school's board of trustees will keep a policy that effectively bans hiring LGBTQ+ employees.
  • Students protested with a 39-day sit-in.
  • Protesters say the next step is to take the board of trustees to court.

Students and alumni from Seattle Pacific University (SPU) will move forward with litigation against the school's board of trustees regarding a policy prohibiting hiring LGBTQ+ faculty and staff.

A 39-day protest ultimately did not sway the private university's board of trustees. A sit-in outside the university president's office began on May 24, shortly after the board chose to reaffirm its "lifestyle expectations guide" for employees in late May.

The sit-in did not sway university leadership. Associated Students of Seattle Pacific shared a letter from Dean Kato, chair of the board of trustees, on Instagram that showed that the school would not reverse its decision to uphold the guide.

"We further reaffirm our resolve to cultivate a distinctive positive learning environment encouraging rigorous academic inquiry based on a biblical framework of faith," Kato wrote in the letter. "We acknowledge there is disagreement among people of faith on the topic of sexuality and identity. But after careful and prayerful deliberation, we believe these longstanding employee expectations are consistent with the university's mission and Statement of Faith that reflect a traditional view on biblical marriage and sexuality, as an expression of long-held orthodox church teachings."

Seattle Pacific is associated with the Free Methodist Church.

The student group gave the board of trustees a July 1 deadline to reverse its decision. With the board's refusal, the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific stated it would move forward with litigation.

"This is not a decision that we take lightly, but it is a decision we believe will protect the future of our university," the group said.

As of July 5, protesters raised just over $36,500 on GoFundMe to cover legal costs. The group plans to sue the board of trustees for breach of fiduciary duty. Students and alumni argue that enforcing this discriminatory policy has harmed the school and its community.

The group's fundraising goal is $75,000.

Before protesters dispersed, they put together a community art installation at the site of the sit-in. According to the group's TikTok, protesters left behind 1,080 paper hearts to represent the number of hours the sit-in lasted.

@engaygetheculture On July 1, we ended our sit-in. And today, we begin the process of taking the president, and other members of the board of trustees, to court for the harm done to our campus. But we will never forget what the sit-in meant to our community. #lgbtq #sitin #studentprotest #pride #seattle #spu #fyp #wewontstop #weareactuallysuingthem ♬ Glimpse of Us - Joji

With nearly 8,000 followers, TikTok proved to be the group's most-followed social media platform. A post showing SPU graduates handing the university's president pride flags as they received their diplomas garnered over 3 million views.

Christian colleges and universities have a long history of discriminatory policies targeting LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff, experts recently told BestColleges. While many campuses have become more accepting of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students over the past decade, the same does not always hold true for faculty and staff. Meanwhile, many institutions have begun to enforce policies targeting gender identity.