GAY RIGHTS COALITION v. GEORGETOWN UNIV.
536 A.2d 1 (1987)
District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Argued en banc October 16, 1985.
Judge Bacon also found that "Georgetown University is a religiously affiliated educational institution which serves both sectarian and secular purposes." In denying "University Recognition," Judge Bacon determined that Georgetown's administrators had applied the moral or normative teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, as these were established at trial through expert testimony and Church documents. See Archbishop John R. Quinn, A Pastoral Letter on Homosexuality (May 5, 1980); Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration On Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (Dec. 29, 1975). Under Catholic doctrine, sexual function has its true meaning and moral rectitude only in heterosexual marriage. Homosexual acts — as distinguished from a homosexual orientation — are morally wrong and must be viewed as "gravely evil and a disordered use of the sexual faculty." Persons of homosexual orientation have an obligation to "try as is reasonably possible to change if they find themselves in such orientation" and must in any event conform their conduct to the normative teachings on human sexuality. No believer affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church may condone, endorse, approve or be neutral about homosexual orientation, homosexual lifestyle or homosexual acts.
Judge Bacon found that "the major purpose of `[U]niversity [R]ecognition' is official endorsement, an endorsement which the University believes will conflict with the normative teachings of the Church on homosexuality." However, Judge Bacon acknowledged that, in addition to the "endorsement," a grant of "University Recognition" allows a student group access to additional facilities and services.
Judge Bacon also found that Georgetown's denial of "University Recognition" was based on its view, one not without foundation, that "the gay student organizations, as evidenced by their charters and their activities, were participating in and promoting homosexual life styles," and that Georgetown was religiously opposed to this type of group activity. University administrators acted upon a sincerely-held religious belief that official recognition of the two groups "would be inconsistent with Church normative teachings and with the basic obligation not to undermine the normative teachings of the Church." Finally, Judge Bacon found that without "University Recognition" clubs may be formed, meetings held on campus, and application made for lecture funds, and that in the District of Columbia there are other off-campus opportunities available to gay students.
In addition to her findings of fact, Judge Bacon made several conclusions of law. She held that Georgetown University is not so pervasively secular that it cannot separate secular and sectarian activities and that its receipt of federal funds for secular purposes neither required it to abandon its sectarian activities nor put it in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Moreover, its status as a church-affiliated educational institution allowed it to raise and rely on First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom. The religious beliefs in issue are sincerely held and central to the Roman Catholic faith and they impose affirmative commands upon its adherents. Judge Bacon held that enforcement of the Human Rights Act in this case would require Georgetown to act in a manner "inconsistent with its duties as a Catholic institution" and would therefore place a burden on the free exercise of religion. On the other hand, because there is no "national" policy requiring state intervention in matters relating to sexual orientation, the Human Rights Act does not further any "compelling" governmental interest which could IIITHE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT VIOLATION
outweigh the burden on religious exercise. In the circumstances of this case, she held, the Human Rights Act is "a local enactment of well-motivated purpose but impermissible reach." Upholding Georgetown's free exercise defense, Judge Bacon dismissed the student groups' complaint.
In granting partial summary judgment, Judge Braman found that Georgetown's denial of "University Recognition" and the attendant tangible benefits violated the Human Rights Act. At trial on the free exercise defense, Judge Bacon therefore proceeded from the premise of an established statutory violation. Without challenging the underlying finding of a Human Rights Act violation, Georgetown asks this court to affirm Judge Bacon's conclusion that the Human Rights Act is unconstitutional as applied.