While Manchester University remains neutral on a proposed amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions in Indiana, 522 Manchester students, staff, faculty and alumni have signed an online petition opposing the amendment.
On Thursday, several Manchester alumni posted a statement demanding the that the cabinet reconsider its position. Students are organizing a protest fast.
On Nov. 20, Manchester released a statement saying the university historically hasn’t taken position on political issues and would remain neutral on the proposed legislation, often called HJR 6.
Manchester University, a school with about 1,150 students in northeast Wabash County, is one of six colleges with historic connections to the Church of the Brethren.
Calls to university officials and the Church of the Brethren on Thursday afternoon were not returned, but a November letter to The Journal Gazette by Manchester University President Jo Young Switzer addressed the university’s stance.
“As hard as it might be for some critics to understand and as painful as it has been to receive the attacks, the cabinet believes this outpouring of responses reflects the essence of the university’s mission – to graduate persons of ability and conviction,” Switzer wrote.
The letter also states that most of the seven cabinet members are opposed to the legislation but do not believe the university should endorse or oppose specific laws.
Other higher education institutions – including Indiana University, Ball State University – have publicly opposed the measure.
Manchester students, alumni, staff and faculty released a statement that said, in part, “Our demand is simple: Manchester University opposition to HJR 6.”
House Joint Resolution 6 proposes language to amend the state constitution that says: “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”
Lawmakers passed the language in 2011, but it takes another vote by the Indiana General Assembly to send it to Hoosiers for approval or defeat on the November 2014 election ballot.
Indiana law already bars same-sex marriage, but backers of a constitutional ban say it would provide an impediment to potential court decisions that would overturn the state law.
Megan Sutton, a 2004 graduate of Manchester, has helped organize a fast that will begin Dec. 27. Sutton said she hopes the fast will encourage cabinet members to rethink their decision to remain neutral.
Deb Romary, a former trustee, said she resigned last month because she could not continue to serve an institution that refused to reject a proposal that would negatively affect students and staff at the university.
Romary, who said she is lesbian, served as a university trustee from 2008 until she resigned Nov. 23.
“I can no longer serve on a board of trustees that’s not willing to step forward for our gay students on campus. It’s not just an LGBTQ issue, it’s an issue of civil rights,” she said.