Rather than allow newly-legal same-sex marriages on its campus, Loyola University Chicago has formalized a policy so restrictive it excludes any gay couple -- and all but a few straight ones -- from having their wedding at school facilities.
Critics say Loyola's policy is a maneuver to deliberately exclude same-sex couples,
leaving some students and alumni outraged at the change, DNAinfo Chicago reports.
Ahead of the Illinois same-sex marriage law's June 1 effective date, the school adopted a new policy enacted just last December: Only Catholic-sanctioned weddings between a man and a woman (who must have ties to Loyola or at least be active members of a Catholic church) may get married at the school's Madonna della Strada Chapel. The policy forbids all other ceremonies -- religious or otherwise -- at campus facilities, including the popular Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills. Receptions on campus facilities are still allowed.
Two Illinois counties (including Cook County, which encompasses Loyola) have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as of Friday.
According to Windy City Times, the university previously operated under guidelines that welcomed only those ceremonies "legally recognized" in Illinois. Same-sex civil unions, though recognized by the state, Illinois, remained forbidden at Loyola venues.
Loyola spokeswoman Maeve Kiley told The Huffington Post via email the school will not be making a formal announcement on the policy (mentioned on university's information page about weddings).
Loyola's move on same-sex marriage comes several months after a student filed a petition urging the Jesuit Catholic university to allow weddings between same-sex couples on campus.
"It's really disheartening," Christine Irvine, the Loyola junior who started the petition, told the Windy City Times. "It's a sign of the non-acceptance and non-tolerance of the LGBT students on campus ... a sign of disrespect of our love compared to our peers."
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA, told The Huffington Post Loyola's policy is consistent with actions by other Catholic institutions in response to same-sex marriage legalization.
"As gay marriage comes to more and more places, the Catholic landscape gets more complex," Duddy-Burke said. "Bishops reach out to churches and give these kinds of orders: Priests are told not to do this, not to officiate and not even be present at same-sex weddings."
Under Illinois' same-sex marriage law, neither clergy nor churches can be compelled to officiate or hold ceremonies for gay couples.
Dudde-Burke noted that while institutions like Loyola may be stalwart in their stance against same-sex marriage, the majority of American Catholics don't share their views. According to a survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute, 58 percent of American Catholics are in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. The finding is in line with previous polling on the matter, which indicated a higher percentage of U.S. Catholics are in favor of same-sex marriage than the general public.
"In the future," Dudde-Burke said, "I think this is a place where the people of the church are going to have to be very clear on what we expect from our institution."