Loyola University Limits Campus Weddings in Wake of Same-Sex Marriage Law

By Benjamin Woodard on February 26, 2014 6:42am 

 A wedding ceremony at Loyola University's Madonna della Strada Chapel in Rogers Park
A wedding ceremony at Loyola University's Madonna della Strada Chapel in Rogers Park
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Flickr/Phil Crisologo

ROGERS PARK — Some Loyola University alumni and students said they're furious that the school changed its policy so that same-sex couples would be unable to marry on campus grounds under the state's new same-sex marriage law.

The policy, enacted in December, allows only Catholic-sanctioned weddings — between a man and a woman — at the school's iconic Madonna della Strada Chapel in Rogers Park. All other ceremonies would be forbidden campuswide, university officials said.

The move undermined the hope of students and alumni who wanted the university to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies on campus grounds after the state Legislature passed the same-sex marriage law last year.

The state's first same-sex couples were officially married Friday.

"I was extremely disappointed because that policy is not reflective of the Loyola that I know," said Michael Jarecki, 35, who's gay and graduated from Loyola in 2001. "To me, this seems like two steps backwards."

Jarecki said the decision was a "slap in the face" to both him and the Jesuit principles he learned about while attending Loyola.

Jarecki, an attorney, said he has been an active participant at the school since graduating, but now he will withhold all donations to his alma mater unless the policy is changed.

"If Loyola doesn't see there are consequences to their actions, it won’t change," Jarecki said. "Why go through the work to promote Loyola when they are personally rejecting me as a gay man?"

The university said the policy does in fact represent its principles.

"Our policy reflects our desire to reserve and use our facilities and campuses for rituals and ceremonies that are congruent with our obligations and values as a Jesuit, Catholic institution," said Maeve Kiley, a university spokeswoman. "That is why we are limiting weddings to Catholic ceremonies in our Catholic chapel."

Wedding receptions, regardless of religious or gender identification, would be permitted in any of the university's other venues, like at Loyola's popular Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, Ill., Kiley said.

Before the change in policy, she said, the university hosted about 15 wedding ceremonies a year, five of which occurred on its Rogers Park campus.

Loyola senior Paul Kubicki, president of Advocate, an LGBTQ student group on campus, said he and other students were "exceptionally disappointed" with Loyola's decision.

"Instead of sort of taking the braver approach and embracing the LGBTQ community as they have in the past, they’ve stopped short," he said.

Kubicki said the diverse and tolerant student body at Loyola wouldn't let the policy stand. He said his group would fight to defeat it.

"It will be indigestible to the community as a whole. I think a lot of people really resent it," said the 22-year-old. "I can’t imagine it sticking around for very much longer."

Some community members — like 49th Ward aldermanic candidate Don Gordon — also protested the university's decision and criticized the Catholic Church.

"How could all of these people support a church that has made this statement? Find a church that would recognize your marriage," Gordon said by phone Tuesday. "I’m completely dumbfounded."

Gordon also took issue with the amount of taxpayer money — in tax-increment financing funds — Loyola has received over the years to develop and beautify its lakeside campus in Rogers Park.

"There didn’t seem to be a problem with the separation of church and state there," he said, adding that the campus should be open to all. "You can’t have it both ways. If you want to be insulated in a private university, that’s fine, but don’t come to the public trough asking for money."

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