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Belmont University adds sexual orientation to non-discrimination policy

Decision comes two months after the departure of soccer coach Lisa Howe

January 26, 2011 NewsChannel5   Comments

By Amanda HaraBelmont University has announced that sexual orientation will now be included in their non-discrimination policy, less than two months after women's soccer coach Lisa Howe left the university.

Belmont University said they have amended their current non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. The move comes after the departure of the women's soccer coach Lisa Howe in December.

Belmont University President Dr. Bob Fisher made the announcement at a news conference on the Belmont University campus Wednesday afternoon.

The Board of Trustees voted to amend the policy at a meeting on Wednesday. 

A new clause has been added to the anti-discrimination policy which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The change came after more than a month conducting focus groups and interviews on the topic of sexual orientation.

Fisher said the university has always maintained an anti-discrimination policy for gays and lesbians. The Board of Trustees decided to make it official, and put that longstanding policy down on paper.

While the wording in Belmont's mission statement has changed, Dr. Fisher wasn't able to explain whether or not University policy will be affected.

Reporter Amanda Hara said, "You're saying that you want to be tolerant of people with different sexual orientations but yet you won't tell us if people are allowed to be openly gay and work here?"

"I'm not responding you can go ahead and ask that about three different times and the same answer every time," President Fisher responded.

"I'm just giving you an opportunity to be transparent," Amanda Hara replied.

President Fisher went on to say "Well thank you very much."

President Fisher said one of the questions asked during those focus groups was whether or not students and faculty felt welcome at Belmont. The answer? Overall, most students did up until December when soccer coach Lisa Howe resigned.

School leaders refused to comment about the controversy with Lisa Howe, and insisted that the debacle had nothing to do with Wednesday's announcement. The President said it was a matter of putting a longstanding policy down on paper.

Lisa Howe left the university abruptly in December, after revealing to her team that her same-sex partner was pregnant. Students led several protests on the campus, claiming she was forced out because of her sexuality.

Belmont, however, released a statement that Howe was not fired, but she did not resign.

Among other accomplishments during Howe's leadership, the Belmont women's soccer team received its first ever bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2008.

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