Supreme Court Decision Sides with UC, Campus's Policy Unaffected

CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOC. CHAPTER OF UNIV. OF CAL., HASTINGS COLLEGE OF LAW v. MARTINEZ »



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In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the University of California was within its rights when it refused to recognize a student group that barred homosexuals from joining. UC Berkeley will not have to change its policy on student groups.

The Christian Legal Society sued the UC Hastings College of Law after the college denied their request for official recognition and campus funding on the grounds that the group's "statement of faith" - requiring members to oppose "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle," including sex outside of heterosexual marriage - violated the campus's anti-discrimination policy.

The Supreme Court ruled that the law school's policy did not violate the group's right to free association. If the court had ruled otherwise, UC Berkeley would have had to rewrite their own policy regarding student organizations, according to Chief Campus Counsel Christopher Patti.

UC Berkeley's required constitutional guidelines for clubs are more specific in their stance on discrimination than those at UC Hastings, Patti said.

The campus's Student Organization Constitution Guidelines forbids discrimination based on "race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical and mental disability, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship or status as a covered veteran."

"The bottom line is, there is a lot in the Supreme Court opinion that supports the University of California policy, but it is not absolutely definitive," Patti said.

In addition to writing a constitution, clubs on campus must take numerous steps before becoming an official campus organization, all of which require them to meet the campus's non-discrimination policy, said Director of Student Involvement Amanda Carlton.

"At the ASUC, we don't take a discriminatory stance, and the students will feel comfortable knowing that other UC campuses have the same policy," said ASUC President Noah Stern.

While the Christian Legal Society was vying for official recognition from Hastings in order to receive campus funds, UC Berkeley clubs must rely on the ASUC Senate for funding allocations.

"You can get more funding as you expand," said ASUC Executive Vice President Nanxi Liu. "The amount of funding you get depends on the size of your student group and how many functions you put on, et cetera."

Lucien-Nahum Isaac, a member of the UC Berkeley chapter of the Adventist Christian Fellowship said he saw the ruling as less of a measure to single out the Christian Legal Society, and more of an evasive action against numerous potential lawsuits that could be filed against the university.

"Because of the political and legal world we live in right now, the university really has to protect itself," Issac said. "I don't necessarily think that the university is trying to single out the Christian society, but in order to protect itself it had to take some action."

While Isaac insists that the club is a community rather than an exclusive club, another club signatory and UC Berkeley student, Irving Aguirre, said that student organizations have the right to discriminate to a certain extent. He said any student should be able to join a group unless the group's particular ideology contradicted the student's personal beliefs.

"If the group has a particular belief, it should be respected as best possible," he said. "Otherwise, what are they doing in that group?"

Tags: UC HASTINGS COLLEGE OF LAW, UC HASTINGS, CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY, US SUPREME COURT


Contact Caroline Cook at [email protected]



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