Sep 12, 2023 - News

Cleveland Catholic Diocese limiting LGBTQ+ expression in schools

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese has quietly instituted a policy restricting LGBTQ+ identity and expression at its 79 elementary schools and five high schools in Northeast Ohio.

Why it matters: Though the Diocese says the policy merely formalizes existing guidance and practice, it severely limits students' expression of gender identities, from wearing rainbow flags to seeking medical interventions.

  • The policy applies to roughly 42,000 students attending Catholic schools in the Diocese's eight-county footprint.

The latest: Bishop Edward Malesic and chancellor Vincent Gardiner signed off on the new rules Aug. 30.

Details: The Cleveland policy, which applies to students, employees and volunteers, includes the following directives:

  • Only pronouns that "accurately reflect a person's God-given biological sex" may be used, and nicknames that confuse or contradict one's biological sex are prohibited.
  • Same-sex couples at school dances are not allowed.
  • Students may not express or celebrate LGBTQ+ identity on their clothes or in their conduct, including by displaying rainbow flags and other pride symbols.
  • No person may engage in surgical interventions, medical treatments or "social transitions" (changing pronouns, altering public appearance) that seek to transition them to a sex inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth.

The big picture: It follows the more than 400 bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights that have been introduced nationwide this year and is virtually identical to policies in other Diocesan districts, which advocates say can harm the mental health of individuals in that community.

Between the lines: Recent changes to Ohio's EdChoice Expansion voucher program mean that any family is now eligible for financial aid to pay for the tuition of private schools, meaning the Diocesan schools under the new policy could receive tuition payments from public dollars.

What they're saying: "All are welcome," the Diocese says, "with the understanding that by voluntarily accepting the invitation to be a part of a Catholic community, a person also accepts the responsibility of striving to do good and avoiding what is not, consistent with Catholic moral teachings."

The other side: The LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland said it was "gravely disappointed" in the new policy.

  • "The repressive culture and othering that will be fostered further by [these] hurtful policies is a massive setback in creating an affirming community here in Northeast Ohio," the Center said in a statement shared with Axios.

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