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Why Do LGBTQ People Attend Religious Colleges and Universities?

One of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about our landmark lawsuit to end anti-LGBTQ discrimination and abuse at-taxpayer funded religious colleges and universities has been: “Why do LGBTQ students go to these schools in the first place?” There are many reasons:

1. Students can be both LGBTQ and religious.

Nearly half of LGBTQ adults are religious. Often, students are navigating the desire to live their faith while reconciling it with their sexuality or gender identity. Being a part of a faith-based institution is appealing.

2. Students are reliant on others for financial support.

Students often decide where to go to school based on financial aid packages, or they rely on parental support. Some students’ parents say they will only provide financial support for religious colleges.

3. Students feel family pressure to attend the school.

Many LGBTQ students grew up in very religious households and never had the opportunity to consider other options. From a young age, their parents made it clear their only option was to attend a religious college that reflects their family’s faith.

4. Students may not yet be aware of their LGBTQ identity.

College is a time of exploration, independence, and self-discovery, which can be especially true for students raised in conservative or religious environments. Students often do not know they are LGBTQ until their college years and are confronted with anti-LGBTQ policies when they feel the need to come out or are outed by others.

5. Students may not be aware of the school’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

Closeted teenagers may be unlikely to review the nondiscrimination policies of potential universities or research the climate for LGBTQ students. And schools sometimes mislead or misinform students about their anti-LGBTQ policies.

6. Students may feel encouraged to attend a school with a more conservative environment.

Growing up in religious households and strict faith communities, many LGBTQ students may think that they will only be comfortable in a conservative environment, because it is all they have ever known.

7. Students may find the school a good fit for other reasons.

Like others attending any school, students may choose it because it is close to home or family, because other relatives attend the school, or because the school has strong programs for the student’s career choice.

33 LGBTQ students are suing the Department of Education to end the religious exemption to Title IX, which legally allows taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities to discriminate against LGBTQ students.


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