Belmont’s Board of Trustees voted to add the words “sexual orientation” to the school’s current nondiscrimination policy, university president Dr. Bob Fisher announced on Wednesday afternoon.
“Belmont University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, or sexual orientation in its administration of education policies, programs or activities; its admission policies; or employment,” the policy reads.
Fisher held a press conference at 4 p.m., to make the announcement.
“Today, our Board of Trustees met and affirmed, officially, who we are and who we will continue to be,” Fisher said. “We are a Christian community that is welcoming, loving, and inclusive of everyone.”
“The Board voted today to amend the university’s written anti-discrimination policy to reflect our long-standing practice of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
According to Fisher, there was full support among board members for the amendment.
“I walked out of that room right there today feeling more supported and encouraged by my board on this issue than any issue I’ve ever dealt with at Belmont,” Fisher said.
On Dec. 17, the Faculty Senate officially recommended to the Belmont Board of Trustees that “sexual orientation” be added to the existing policies.
Belmont’s policies gained national media attention in December, when head women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe abruptly exited the university. Players told the media she was fired after revealing to the team that she was a lesbian and her same-sex partner was pregnant.
Fisher made a statement on Dec. 8 and repeatedly said that “sexual orientation has not been considered when making hiring, promotion, or dismissal decisions at Belmont.”
The amended policy is nothing new, but instead it simply puts into writing what has always been true, Fisher said.
“Hopefully it clarifies things for people in the community. It’s always been clear to me (what our policies have been),” Fisher said. “We are trying to make it as clear as we can, because we think we should on behalf of our students, be clear as to how welcome and how much we value them in our community.”
When asked if openly gay people were welcome to work or attend Belmont, Fisher deflected the question.
“I would put that in the hypothetical category,” Fisher said. “I’m here today to talk about a policy that has been adopted and the implementation of that policy will unfold over time.”
Howe released a statement through her attorney’s office following Fisher’s statements, commending the Board’s action.
“I am thrilled for the Belmont University community. This is a great victory for the values of inclusion, human dignity, and respect,” Howe said.
“I am incredibly proud of the Belmont faculty and students for pushing for this policy. I am also grateful to the Belmont board for recognizing that being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive. This is a landmark day.”