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Vigil Held to Support Same-Sex Ceremonies

By Alexandra S. Morrison

More than 40 students, clergy and Cambridge residents gathered outside Memorial Church last night for a candlelight vigil in support of same-sex commitment ceremonies in Memorial Church.

"We want to provide a clear message that the student body is behind same-sex commitment ceremonies," said Jane I. Aceituno '98, co-chair of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA).

"We are keen to work with the administration every step of the way in the next couple of months," Aceituno said.

Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer professor of Christian morals and minister in the Memorial Church, who serves on the Faculty Council on Religion and the Board of Ministry, has said that Memorial Church does not have a definite policy on commitment ceremonies.

Individuals who wish to hold such ceremonies in Memorial Church must be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to Gomes.

Commitment ceremonies top the agenda of the Board of Ministry's 10 a.m. meeting today, and the vigil was scheduled in anticipation of the meeting, according to Seth J. Persily, a Harvard Law School student who organized the event.

Gays and lesbians on campus "are not happy with the status quo and not having any right that any heterosexual would have within the Church," Persily said.

The policy is discriminatory and gay and lesbian students suffer the most, Persily said.

"This policy is evidence of the fact that gays and lesbians are not recognized as equals by the administration, or by the student body," he said. "It contributes to the general atmosphere of intolerance to gay and lesbian people on campus."

Some student leaders attending the event said they support the mission of the BGLTSA.

"I hope Harvard will choose to abide by its own non-discrimination policy by not discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender," said Lamelle D. Rawlins '99, president of the Undergraduate Council.

The vigil participants prayed, sang and listened to several speakers.

The Board of Ministry is expected to release a report on its views on gay commitment ceremonies in May.

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