Student starts LGBT group for Catholic students

by Kendra Poole

Before college, junior Damian Legacy wanted to join the priesthood to share his faith with members of the LGBT community.
Media Credit: Cecile Schillis-Gallego
Before college, junior Damian Legacy wanted to join the priesthood to share his faith with members of the LGBT community.

Damian Legacy's faith is grounded in a biblical passage he heard in his home parish in Vermont: “God sets straight all paths.”

It is this passage that helps Legacy to embrace both of his identities: Catholic and gay.

“If I find love in another man, God is making straight that path. I am receiving his blessing from that,” he said. “God will lead us back to Himself.”

This semester, Legacy co-founded Dignity GW, a student organization for LGBT students and allies to practice the Catholic faith.

“The general hope for Dignity GW is to provide a place for LGBT Catholics on campus where it can kind of be their home away from home for spiritual needs,” Legacy said. “It’s a safe space for you to worship, for you to practice your faith and be gay and that’s okay.”

Legacy said he and co-founder, Blake Bergen, wanted to bring a Catholic LGBT group to campus after participating in a District-wide LGBT and faith group called Dignity Washington. Many of the Dignity Washington members were older, and the duo wanted to create an environment more tailored to student life.

Because the organization does not align with the Newman Center's Catholic doctrine, which does not accept same sex marriages, Dignity GW is not registered as a Catholic student group.

Religion and sexuality moved to the forefront of discussion for LGBT students this week as part of National Coming Out Week, which kicked off Oct. 9.

One panel exploring the role sexuality plays in each faith community, which included a rabbi, a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam. Each of the spiritual leaders detailed the relationship of homosexuality and their respective religious texts.

Reverend Joe Palacios, a Catholic priest from the D.C.-area and a professor at Georgetown, emphasized the importance of places of worship being open to gay parishioners.

"To destroy someone's young spiritual life – that's really a sin," Palacios said.

Legacy said the group anticipates tension within the GW community because it accepts the LGBT community within the Catholic faith.

“We want to get our feet firm on the ground,” Legacy said. “There will be criticism. There will be theological fight for whether or not we are not legitimate."

Legacy said Dignity GW is not limited to Catholic students, and all are welcome to participate in mass.

“Just like in the secular fight for equality, it has to be that way in the religious fight for equality too. When it starts to matter for people who are not LGBT themselves, when it starts to matter for everyone, then it will change,” he said.

Bergen, who is also the president of GW Allied in Pride, said he identifies as Agnostic and was raised Jewish. Still, he attends mass with Legacy nearly every Sunday. The two students met freshman year and are roommates this year.

“I think what is interesting for me, and why I love that form of work, is because it’s still helping people,” Legacy said.

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