Samford University officially recently rejected the petition of an LGBTQ+ group to be recognized as a formal organization on campus. Started by Cumberland School of Law student Angela Whitlock, OUTLaw now includes around 50 other Cumberland students who are part of or support the LGBTQ+ community.
After attending the annual Cumberland student organization fair in Aug. 2021, Whitlock noticed the lack of any groups or organizations that represented the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Spreading her idea for OUTLaw through word of mouth, social media and petitions, Whitlock formed the group and held the club’s first meeting on Oct. 12, 2021.
The mission statement Whitlock provided outlines her and the other members’ goals in forming the group.
“Cumberland OUTLaw is an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally members of the Cumberland School of Law community established to promote diversity and encourage legal studies specific to the LGBTQ+ community.”
After about a year of meetings and gaining new members, Whitlock decided it was time to apply for official recognition from the university. This recognition would allow OUTLaw to be directly affiliated with the university, and host various events on campus without complication.
After going through the required application process and submitting the paperwork, Whitlock received a letter of rejection from President Beck Taylor which denied her application to allow OUTLaw to be recognized as an official Samford organization.
While Taylor said he supports more conversations like this in the future, he maintained that accepting the group as an official organization goes against the university’s core beliefs.
“Extending official university recognition to a student organization that advocates for beliefs and behaviors contrary to the religious values of Samford would be inconsistent with my responsibilities as president,” Taylor’s letter said.
Following the rejection, Whitlock and other OUTLaw members said they will not stop trying to reach their goal of official recognition from the university.
“OUTLaw will continue to fight for our rights to become an official student organization at Samford. We are constantly analyzing options for the best way forward,” Whitlock said.
OUTLaw has not ruled out legal action as a possible response to the university’s decision.
“We’re prepared to pursue all avenues necessary to achieve equal treatment,” Whitlock said.
In regards to how this decision will affect the LGBTQ+ community at Samford, Whitlock expressed concern about the implications. As an unofficial group at Samford, OUTLaw is not allowed to host events or activities on campus, and cannot use Samford’s name in any promotion for the organization.
“Samford’s refusal to recognize our organization based solely upon its LGBTQ+ identity only sends harmful messages about LGBTQ+ people—that LGBTQ+ people are inferior to our non-LGBTQ+ peers by virtue of our design, that we should be ashamed of who we are because of who we love, or that we are anything less than fearfully and wonderfully made,” Whitlock said. “Apparently promoting diversity, holding discussions about LGBTQ+ rights/concerns, and creating a safe space are contrary to Samford’s religious values.”
In President Taylor’s letter, he acknowledged the conversations regarding human sexuality among Samford’s community and the university’s willingness to continue having those conversations.
“I am ever mindful of the array of views and opinions on LGBTQ-related issues in contemporary culture, including among Samford’s students and employees. Civil discourse on matters of human sexuality and other subjects at the forefront of public debate will always exist at Samford, and the university is not retreating from those discussions,” Taylor’s letter said.