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Students and staff protest Seattle Pacific University's ban on LGBTQ employees

Thursday marked the third day of sit-in protests by Seattle Pacific University students and staff over LGBTQ rights.

The demonstrations began after the university's board of trustees voted on Monday to reinforce a ban on hiring LGBTQ employees.

Dozens of student and faculty protesters say the ban is archaic, homophobic, and is causing community outrage. Student Body President Laur Lugos said they're prepared to camp outside the administrative office at least through the weekend.

"This is not a new fight — this has been an ongoing fight for 30 years," Lugos said.

SPU has been in court over its policies on sexuality as recently as 2021, when adjunct nursing professor Jéaux Rinedahl sued the school. He had been terminated from the nursing school because he is gay. That case was settled out of court.

Lugos said students are at a breaking point, "where we're willing to do what it takes to make sure that our faculty and staff are protected, and we wanna make sure that everyone here belongs."

Board Chair Cedric Davis said in a statement that employees need to reflect a traditional, Christian view on biblical marriage and sexuality.

The Seattle Pacific University Board of Trustees and Interim President Pete Menjares on Thursday held a town hall to discuss the policy and recent vote. An SPU spokesperson said almost 1,000 students, faculty, and staff attended.

A university spokesperson said the school is upholding its current "employee lifestyle expectations", and has no further comment about the student demands or the board's decision.

Lugos said protesters are demanding the board reveal how each of its trustees voted, and demonstrations will continue unless the policy is reversed and board members who voted for it step down.

SPU is an ecumenical university, meaning it represents different Christian faiths, but is most closely affiliated with the Free Methodist Church USA.