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September 28, 2006
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Gay club loses Touro OK
Students may walk out because of decision
By CHRIS G. DENINA/Times-Herald staff writer

A Touro University club tackling gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues has been dropped from the Vallejo medical school's list of ap-

proved clubs, a university official and group member said Friday.

The Jewish medical school revoked funding for the Touro University Gay-Straight Alliance and is barring the club from using the university's name. Some students are considering organizing a walk-out Monday during exam week to protest the decision, which a civil liberties lawyer said may violate California law.

The gay lifestyle goes against the Jewish university's values, said Nathan Church, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

"The university is very much committed to its students and also is very much committed to its religious heritage," Church said. "In this particular instance, (it) creates a particular situation where we hope the students and community understand we care very much about these students."

Some of the club's 20 active members learned of the decision late Thursday, a month after fall classes began, and started informing others of the decision Friday.

"I was flabbergasted, shocked, physically ill," said second-year medical student Bryan Hopping, the club's outreach coordinator.

The decision to take away the group's funding because of sexual orientation is against the law, said Tamara Lange, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, in San Francisco.

"The bottom line here is that California law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation," Lange said.

If the students sue alleging unlawful discrimination, the case would be novel since few legal cases have covered California's nondiscrimination laws on sexual orientation, she said.

Calls to religious liberty groups were not returned immediately Friday.

Hopping, the student club coordinator, said he's spreading the word about the university's decision to embarrass officials. Still, he said he hopes they'll sanction the club again.

"If they want to be known for anything, they'll be known for discriminating against gays and lesbians," Hopping, 30, said.

The group, which already received about $1,200 this school year in university funding, is a social organization that helps new gay students feel welcome at the school, Hopping said.

The Jewish university, which

Century 21Distinctive Properties Inc.

serves kosher food in its cafeteria, can take a stance on issues like homosexuality, but shouldn't be intolerant of gay students, Hopping said.

As a gay student studying to be a doctor, Hopping said it's important physicians learn about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. For instance, doctors need to know how issues like HIV affect homosexual patients, he said.

"It's inconsistent with the mission of a modern medical school," Hopping said.

Under observant Judaism, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyles are against Jewish law, said Church, the university official. He compared it to Christian fundamentalism.

"I love you as an individual in a religious framework, but I can't love the lifestyle, and that contradicts my belief system," Church said.

The club can continue to function as an informal group, but can't receive formal sponsorship from student government, Church said. He compared it to a softball or soccer club that holds fund-raisers on campus but doesn't get university dollars.

The Gay-Straight Alliance group can post information on campus and hold activities there, but is restricted from using or referring to the university's name, he said.

For students who want to talk about the club's unofficial status, Church said he plans a forum.

The university has 865 students this year, with about 200 students on clinical rotations off-campus, Church said. Approved organizations on campus include the TU Christian Students Club and Wilderness Medicine Club, said Hopping of the Gay-Straight Alliance.

If students agree to a walk-out Monday during exam week, their grades will be put at risk, Hopping said.

"I definitely feel like my status as a student at Touro is under question," Hopping said. "And I'm totally willing."

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.


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