While Harvard observed National Coming Out Day yesterday, urging gays to feel comfortable with their sexualities, Stanford initiated its new policy of extending greater rights to gay couples.
The new Stanford policy mirrors a Harvard Real Estate (HRE) decision made last year, which entitled gay and lesbian couples to the same housing rights as married students.
But Stanford goes a step further, offering unmarried couples the same access to Stanford University facilities that married spouses enjoy, including libraries, athletic centers, and health care at the University Health Center.
William C. Georges, the assistant director of Stanford Housing, said the HRE policy did not influence Stanford's decision.
"A number of gay and lesbian students have been working very hard in the past few years to see this change in policy adapted," he said, adding that "Stanford several years ago changed its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual preference."
Gay, lesbian and bisexual students have been working on modifying the domestic couple policy since 1976, according to David L. Bradfute, a Stanford Ph.D. student who is active in the University's gay community.
"We're hoping it's going to legitimize lesbian and gay rights. Universities have always been in the forefront of such changes as these," said Jake W. Veylupek, another Stanford gay activist.
"There's a real symbolic benefit from this policy change," Bradfute said. "By changing this policy, Stanford's really welcoming lesbian and gay people to campus."
"I hope that Harvard and also the University of California system here will look into doing something a little more positive and welcoming," said Thomas G. Henning, a part-time lecturer and gay activist at Stanford.