By Ted Land (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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10:16 PM EST, December 5, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- Gay Notre Dame students are celebrating a landmark announcement, that the Catholic university is expanding support programs, and creating an official organization to make students from all walks of life feel more welcome.
“We want every student on this campus to feel welcomed and included,” said Erin Hoffmann Harding, Notre Dame Vice President for Student Affairs.
The initiative expands services for students who are GLBTQ -- gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning.
Notre Dame plans to have special gender identity training for student leaders, staff, and faculty. The university says it’ll start support programs for students, allow for a recognized student organization, and create a committee to advise administrators on GLBTQ issues.
It's a significant decision for a Catholic institution where gay people haven't always felt welcome.
In 2010, students who were upset with Notre Dame policies held a demonstration, urging the university to take a stronger stance in support of gay rights.
“When the university refuses to acknowledge club status for alliance and refuses to add sex orientation to the non-discrimination clause, we are reminded of our other-ness,” said Laurel Javors, a student, during the 2010 march.
Students who've been working toward Wednesday’s announcement say it's a first step, which helps the campus stay true to its beliefs.
“Notre Dame talks so much about community and family and I think this is an important step forward in realizing that,” said Alex Coccia, a junior.
Administrators feel the plan only strengthens Notre Dame's teachings of respect and inclusion.
"I think of it very much as arising from our Catholic mission, which is why we’ve studied church teaching so carefully and listened to our students," said Hoffmann Harding.
The university hopes to start hammering out details of the new student organization this coming spring.
The committee to advise school administrators on gay and lesbian issues would take shape in the fall.
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