On Friday, a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court changed the landscape of the nation, making gay marriage legal in all 50 states.
Two days earlier, Penn State had its own proud moment as Abington math lecturer John Majewicz visited the White House, invited by President Barack Obama to take part in an LGBT Pride Month celebration.
According to the university, White House social secretary Deesha Dyer struck up a friendship with Majewicz as they both worked with ActionAIDS in Philadelphia. ActionAIDS is Pennsylvania’s largest HIV/AIDS service organization. Dyer put Majewicz’s name in front of the president.
“What amazed me is how ordinary it seemed and how everyone was treated respectfully and kindly,” Majewicz said in a release from the university. “To an outsider, the crowd may have seemed a bit ‘colorful’ and unusual, but it seemed perfectly ordinary. Everyone was so comfortable because we were treated so well.”
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Penn State has had an active and vocal LGBTQ presence on campus for decades.
Today, the community’s Student Resource Center is in Boucke Building, but there was a time when students of differing sexuality or gender expression and, perhaps just as important, the friends who supported them, would meet in a room at the HUB, talking about challenges and how they could make other people understand that different didn’t have to mean scary.
The university itself has been a real partner in the process.
“I think Penn State is really receptive. It seems that Penn State has been thinking of inclusiveness for a long time,” said Natasha Cox, the student resource center’s program coordinator, at a training event in November. The group helps work with students, faculty and staff on being receptive and welcoming in Safe Zone programs.
There are always people on the other side. There are people who believe that identifying in a certain way, acting in a certain way, loving in a certain way, is wrong. There always will be.
But at Penn State, for every voice of opposition there are math teachers who help AIDS patients, graduate students who hold down the fort in the resource center, and friends who offer a hand to hold on the journey.