College Hosts Valentine's Day Contest; No Lesbians Need Apply [Update: They Caved!]

When Megan Edwards and her fiancée Katie McTurk heard about a Valentine's Day contest for couples who met at their alma mater, St. Joseph's University, they were eager to enter. But then they found out the contest was for straight couples only.

According to a Facebook post by Edwards, the two eagerly submitted their story to the How I Met My Hawk Mate competition, run by the SJU Alumni Association — winners get a $100 gift card to their favorite restaurant. Here's what they wrote:

For our first three years at SJU, Katie took her classes in Post or Bellarmine, while Meg was camped out in Barbelin; Katie spent her free time at the Fieldhouse or on the river with the crew team, while Meg was in Campion, Wolfington, or on some service trip. But, despite our best efforts to go our entire college career completely oblivious to each other's existence, we finally met in our senior year through a friend and classmate at SJU. We somehow remained inseparable our senior year in spite of Katie's demanding crew schedule and Meg's involvement in nearly every other activity on campus. Since graduation, we have built our life together in Philadelphia and loved every minute of it. We were engaged this past October and are looking forward to our wedding in 2013!

Cute, right? According to the SJU Alumni Association, not so much. When their stories still hadn't been posted on the Association's Facebook page after several days, McTurk called to check, and found out that the association had "discussed our submission," and decided not to accept it because "the Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriage." Edwards writes, "Despite the ten years we (collectively) studied at Saint Joseph's, the hundreds of thousands of dollars we've paid in tuition dollars over these ten years, and countless hours we have dedicated to SJU, our relationship does not seem to exist in the Alumni Association's eyes. To them, we are not hawkmates." She adds,

Collectively, Katie and I have proudly represented SJU in countless endeavors across the country, and even internationally. I have been proud to be a Hawk ever since receiving my acceptance letter! That pride has been reflected in our passion for SJU – yet SJU does not feel that same pride in having us as alumni. This is no longer about the "How I Met My Hawkmate" competition, but more importantly, it is about the equality of ALL SJU alumni.

Unfortunately, given the Catholic Church's official position on gay marriage, it's not surprising that a Catholic university's alumni Association might exclude gay alums. That said, SJU's mission statement makes it sound more liberal than some Christian schools. There's no language about traditional marriage or contraception. Instead, the statement includes passages like this:

For this University, Christ and the Church are sources of truth, guides and inspirations for life. Catholic values are normative, including: full respect for the freedom of conscience of each person, freedom in research and teaching according to one's discipline, and the continuous pursuit of truth, human rights, and the common good. We foster a lived awareness of the challenging and mutually enriching interaction between Christian faith and diverse contemporary culture; we seek to engage the full participation of the entire community in the University's intellectual, cultural, and spiritual life.

It's still a Catholic school — I'd be pretty surprised, for instance, if it started hosting gay marriages in its chapel. But an informal contest for alumni is a much lower-pressure event — and the fact that the SJU alumni association picked dogma over freedom and human rights is a little disappointing. I've contacted the association to see if the decision is part of an official policy; I haven't yet received a reply.

Update: Perhaps in response to the couple's Facebook campaign, SJU has reversed its decision and allowed McTurk and Edwards to enter the contest.

ATTENTION ALL SJU ALUMNI: ALL ALUMNI ARE NOT CONSIDERED EQUAL [Facebook]