Anti-gay demonstrator met with student backlash


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Wayne Lela, founder of Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment, hands out flyers about his views at The Arch on Thursday. Lela has come to Northwestern in the past and is focused on spurring conversation and voicing his opinions on homosexual rights.

At least one representative from an anti-gay organization was met with student backlash Thursday after handing out flyers and voicing his opinions by The Arch.

Wayne Lela, the founder of Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment which is based in Downers Grove, Illinois, said his mission is both to spread his ideas and to create student forums on college campuses to encourage conversation about homosexuality. Lela has come to NU in the past and received similar students responses.

(Week’s start colored by debate)

During the day, he passed out flyers which detailed his organization’s ideas, calling homosexuality “immoral” and citing facts that gay individuals have higher rates of several diseases including AIDS and hepatitis A and B.

Devin Moss, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said he came to The Arch after seeing the flyers Lela was passing out in an effort to show support for students.

“From my perspective, I just want students to know that they are supported here at Northwestern,” Moss said. “This is a space for them and so that’s my biggest message that I want everyone to know about.”

Lela said he had spoken with many students throughout the day, most of whom did not agree with his views. He added that students have torn the flyer up in front of him in the past.

“In this culture, on the average college campus, most people are pro-gay,” he said. “We find a lot of students are close minded on the subject. They don’t want to hear another side … I just find that inappropriate for an educational institution.”

Lela said he had asked faculty and students groups about potentially sponsoring a forum for members on both sides of the issue to gather and discuss the issues. However, he said these ideas were further met with a lack of interest, noting he had only held a forum similar to this once in his more than 20 years of work.

“It’s not a settled issue,” he said. “There are millions of people in this country, over 30 states have voted against gay marriage. They have their reasons for doing it. Some of them are religious and I would say those are not as good as they could be and some of them are very rational and that’s what we’d like to convey.”

University Police received a complaint about the demonstration from an individual who did not identify themselves but called the material being passed out “offensive.”

In response, officers were sent to investigate the situation. However, because the representative was on a public sidewalk and not University property, Deputy Chief Daniel McAleer said his actions were not violating any policies.

“There’s no prohibition about handing out letters on the public sidewalk,” he said. “You don’t need a permit or anything to pass out literature. So as long as they stuck to the public sidewalk, which we asked them to do, that’s their right to be out there handing out whatever they decide they want to hand out.”

Communication junior Bea Sullivan-Knoff said she heard about the “homophobic men” at The Arch through social media. Sullivan-Knoff was male-assigned at birth but does not identify within the gender binary. After leaving her class, “United States Gay and Lesbian History,” Sullivan-Knoff joined her friends at The Arch.

“Although I don’t identify as homosexual, I still recognize that I am male bodied so I asked one of my gay friends who was there if he wanted to make out,” she said. “I handed my bike helmet to my other friend, and my friend and I just started making out for a minute and people were cheering us on.”

Sullivan-Knoff said her response to Lela’s ideologies was an attempt to make a political statement.

“I like to think of my body as a weapon or a tool that can be used in different ways,” she said. “It just made sense to make a political statement to these ignorant homophobes.”

Paige Leskin contributed reporting.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to the demonstrator as “anti-homosexual.” The story has been changed to reflect GLAAD’s media recommendations for referring to people attracted to members of the same sex. 

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