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Gay Notre Dame students celebrate new environment of inclusion

Close to 140 attend first event for just-formed LGBTQ organization

September 03, 2013|By Ted Land (tland@wsbt.com), Click here to friend Ted on Facebook | WSBT-TV

There was a big turnout recently for a new group at Notre Dame, which students have been trying to start for a long time.

This is the first year that the university will recognize an organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, and their classmates who want to create a more welcoming atmosphere on campus.

The group is called Prism ND. They now have a website, they're on social media, and they're reaching out to their classmates.

A welcome picnic last week attracted close to 140 people, an organizer said.

“Certainly within the LGBT community people are very excited that the university is taking a step forward on this, but even from students outside who are heterosexual allies or just people on campus who don't care one way or the other, the response has been wonderful,” said Bryan Ricketts, a sophomore who was part of a group working with the university to design an organization that fosters an environment of inclusion, while still remaining true to catholic teachings.

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“It’s been a really collaborative effort so far and I think what we've been able to do is build really good and trusting relationships with administrators, which is really going to help us move forward,” said Alex Coccia, another student who helped lead the effort.

That relationship between gay students and the administration hasn't always been so strong.

In 2010, students upset with Notre Dame policies held a demonstration urging the university to take a stronger stance in support of gay rights.

It would be two more years before administrators would develop a plan to support students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their identity.

Students involved with Prism ND say Notre Dame feels different this year.

“There's really a new vibe on campus regarding LGBTQ inclusion,” said Coccia.

A university plan affirms the Church's position that students who identify as gay or lesbian "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

But at the same time, the university adheres to church teaching that sexual intimacy should only be between a man and a woman who are married.

Prism ND plans to organize activities for students, social discussions, community service projects, and other gatherings.

And they emphasize it’s an organization for everyone, not just those who identify as LGBTQ.

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