The Big Ten school will welcome gay fans at their game against Northwestern

By Ross Forman
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Jon Kitto with Senior Assistant Athletic Director Dr. Pat Kraft. Photo credit Mike Dickbernd, IU Athletics.

Indiana University is taking yet another ground-breaking step forward with its athletic department’s strong pro-LGBT stance.

The Hoosiers play host to Northwestern University on Saturday, Oct. 30, and the football game will be LGBT Appreciation Day at Memorial Stadium on the Bloomington campus.

“The idea was to use football as a symbol that would send a message to all people (that), ‘Indiana University Welcomes You!’” said Jon Kitto, 52, an IU associate director. “I felt it would send a powerful message of acceptance to have an area that has historically been associated with homophobia, sponsor a festive event for gay, lesbians, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people.”

And yes, “we do hope to make this an annual event of some type,” Kitto added.

IU’s athletic department jumped on the pro-LGBT campaign with both feet earlier this year, setting up June 12 at Pride Fest in Indianapolis.

Indiana has always been on the fore-front of acceptance and inclusion,” Kitto said. “Reaching out wasn’t on their radar, but neither was not reaching out. The short answer is that they were asked, and said ‘yes.’”

Kitto said IU’s pro-gay stance has been received very well, even with a sense of excitement within the athletic department. “The four straight members of the (athletic) department who volunteered to work the department’s booth at Pride were so excited that they proposed an athletic department float at the next Pride,” Kitto said.

IU’s campus in Bloomington is 45-minutes by car from Indianapolis.

“Indiana University has long had a sizeable LGBT population,” Kitto said. “Under the 70-year tutelage of Herman B Wells, Indiana promoted research and understanding in the area of sex and sexual orientation. Wells was very active in hiring diverse faculty and staff, so the university community has been accommodating for many years. Estimates are that there are approximately 10,000 LGBT people in the Bloomington community.”

During the 2010 Indianapolis Pride, four IU athletes went to the athletic department’s booth and identified themselves as gay to the personnel. “They said that the presence of the department sent such a strong message of acceptance that they came out to the department for the first time,” Kitto said.

IU football coach Bill Lynch, on his own, with no prompting, has volunteered to serve on a diversity panel and he was a judge in the “Mr. Out at Kelly” contest for the IU Business School, Kitto said.

IU also is extending the welcome mat to Northwestern’s LGBT fans.

Kitto said organizers are not expecting any protesters at the game—“absolutely none.” And they’ve even received support from some of the players.

IU quarterback Ben Chappell sent Kitto an email saying, “Thank you for all you are doing for Indiana University,” Kitto said.

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