Azusa Pacific University, a conservative Christian NCAA Division II school in Southern California, has rescinded its ban on same-sex dating, this time seemingly for good.

In September 2018, the school removed the ban, only to have the Board of Trustees reinstate it a few weeks later after a backlash from Christian groups.

Following campus protests and about six months of internal and external conversations, the school is making the move to find common ground and a place of mutual respect between its conservative Christian belief system and the LGBTQ community.

“APU is an open-enrollment institution, which does not require students to be Christian to attend, and the handbook conveys our commitment to treating everyone with Christ-like care and civility,” said APU provost Mark Stanton. “Our values are unchanged, and the APU community remains unequivocally biblical in our Christian evangelical identity.”

A group called Brave Commons said it played an integral role in the conversation and movement at Azusa Pacific. Co-Executive Director Erin Green said in a statement the removal of the ban involves “no stigmatizing of queer people specifically. This is what we asked for all along.”

The change came about after Azusa Pacific’s Student Government Association, led by out student Alexis Diaz, passed a resolution asking the APU Board of Trustees to “clarify definitions and language of the ban, as lack of clarity is itself abusive, or remove it,” according to Brave Commons. The group said in its statement that it worked directly with students to pressure the university through a public petition, along with multiple email and public campaigns.

The resolution, drafted and produced by LGBTQ students, was reportedly “taken heavily into consideration and used to create the new student standards of conduct,” according to someone Brave Commons called a “source in conversation with APU administration.”

The result, according to Stanton, is that “students will not be disciplined for being in same-sex relationships on campus.”

“I am so happy for the LGBTQ community at APU,” said Pat Griffin, who helped found a group called Common Ground, and who has also worked with the school and other conservative Christian institutions over the last few years. “I think this policy change shows that faith-based schools can both remain true to their theology and welcome LGBTQ students on their campuses as equal members of the communities.”

APU does not require students to be Christian, and students do not have to sign a statement of faith to attend the college. Despite the change in dating practices, the APU handbook continues to ban sex outside of marriage. However, it now applies that ban equally across genders and sexual orientations. While there is a legitimate debate about the efficacy of these kinds of bans, it has been the equal treatment of LGBTQ students that has been in question here. If the school applies its policies equally,

Unfortunately, the school will still not recognize legal same-sex marriages, meaning LGBTQ students and faculty having sex with someone to whom they are legally married. The university claims it endorses a “traditional view” of marriage between one man and one woman.

Still, a change in policy like this is a step toward respect and inclusion. For a school like APU, it’s a huge step not taken lightly.

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