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Same-sex marriage law challenges university’s right of denial

University Business, January 2014

In November, Illinois became the 15th state to allow same-sex marriage, but one couple planning to tie the knot had hopes dashed when their chosen venue turned them down.

Christine Irvine, a Loyola University transfer student, wanted to marry her partner at the Jesuit school this June, which is when the law goes into effect. But she was told no because Loyola would not allow same-sex ceremonies on campus.

Irvine began an online petition on, calling on the school to live up to its Jesuit values.

“Loyola claims to embrace social justice and attempts to be a ‘home for all our students—embracing all races, sexes, gender identities, religions, ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations and abilities,’ ” she wrote. But in denying her, “the university communicates that the relationships of our heterosexual peers are more highly valued, accepted and celebrated than our own. Policies such as these do nothing but harm the LGBTQ community.”

Nearly 2,900 people had signed the petition by early December, but it may not matter. Illinois law does give Loyola the right to deny a service at its Madonna Della Strada chapel because it is a house of worship. Loyola’s current requirement for marriage ceremonies on campus is only that they’re legally recognized by the state.

What isn’t clear, however, is whether the school will still be able to apply the same rule in June to other campus venues that are open to the public. And, so far, Loyola is not saying. The school did not respond to several UB requests for clarification of its policies.

Irvine has since moved her ceremony to an off-campus venue, but the question is one that will likely be raised again at Loyola and other schools with religious affiliations as same-sex marriage is recognized in more states.


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