LGBTQ students file lawsuit alleging discrimination at federally funded, religious institutions

Class-action lawsuit includes Liberty University and 24 other colleges and universities

Suit is looking to have universities treat queer students the same way they treat other students.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – One LGBTQ advocacy group is suing the U.S. Department of Education, alleging mistreatment by certain institutions including Liberty University.

“I wanted to do my part in this lawsuit because I wanted Liberty, and all these other schools, to treat their queer students the same way that they treat everyone else,” said Lucas Wilson, who identifies as a gay man.

He is one of 33 plaintiffs, from across the country, in the class-action lawsuit.

They claim Title IX’s religious exemption allows colleges and universities – that receive federal funding — to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

Wilson attended LU from 2008 to 2012 and wants accountability for the way institutions treat the LGBTQ community.

“[The colleges and universities] see [being LGBTQ] as, without question, a negative and detrimental practice,” said Wilson.

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project is the group that recently filed the lawsuit.

“We want it to be enforced, not only at public or secular private institutions but also at taxpayer-funded, religious colleges and universities where discrimination is openly practiced,” said Paul Southwick, director of the advocacy group.

Wilson claims at LU, that included a conversion-therapy program, possible financial consequences or community service.

“There are ways that the university will ‘work with them’ and try to ‘bring them back into the fold’ in a way.”

Now, he wants to stand up against Liberty and nearly two dozen other religious colleges and universities.

“What I hope this lawsuit does is that it starts a conversation and that both sides are willing to listening; that we’re not out here making noise simply to make noise,” Wilson said.

Liberty University declined to comment.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.