Dr. John Corvino is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He is the co-author (with Maggie Gallagher) of Debating Same-Sex Marriage and the author of What’s Wrong with Homosexuality?. Until 2011, his column “The Gay Moralist” appeared weekly at 365gay.com; he has also contributed to The Advocate, the LA Times, the Independent Gay Forum, the Huffington Post, The New Republic and the New York Times. In the last twenty years he has spoken at over 200 campuses on issues of sexuality, ethics, and marriage.
On February 16 Dr. Corvino was invited to give a lecture on same-sex marriage at Providence College. The lecture was scheduled for September 26, 2013. Rather than a lecture, Dr. Corvino suggested it be a debate. Dr. Corvino made recomendations as to potential "sparring partners" for the debate. Organizers of the event added Providence College theologian Dana L. Dillon to present a response.
On Saturday September 21, Provost Hugh Lena abruptly cancelled the event.
On Monday September 23, The NY Times reported, "In his e-mail announcing the cancellation, Hugh F. Lena, the provost and senior vice president of Providence College, cited a document produced by the American bishops in 2004, “Catholics in Political Life”, to support the decision. And he said that college policy 'dictates that that both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally.'"
On September 25, Provost Lena sent a message to all faculty, staff, and students, stating that Dr. Corvino was not cancelled, but rather postponed. In the statement, the Provost indicates that the event was being "rescheduled with Dr. Corvino and Sherif Girgis, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton University and a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. Both individuals have agreed to the event and the likely date will be sometime in the spring semester." And, "The Administration’s decision to cancel the event had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino. We were concerned, rather, that the event had strayed from what had originally been proposed – a presentation of philosophical and legal arguments in support of same-sex marriage by Dr. Corvino opposite a presentation of opposing arguments by a similar person of national repute."
Dr Corvino disputes the statement made that the event is being rescheduled. "Notwithstanding the current spin from the Providence College administration, my event is not being rescheduled. It is being replaced with a different event".
The statement by Provost Lena issued to faculty, staff, and students stating that the event was postponed contradict what Provost Lena said to the New York Times. Dr. Corvino issued a response to the happenings leading up to the cancellation of the event.
Dr. Corvino wrote in his response, "The truth is that it’s difficult not to feel as if the Providence College administration regards me as a sort of virus, which might infect students if not blocked by some administration-approved surgical mask. This feeling is sadly familiar, to me and to any gay person. It is the malaise of the closet, the notion that some features of oneself are unspeakable. I am the Other. And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how young gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Providence College students must feel. It is for them that I remain most concerned."
While schools have the academic freedom to invite guests who will match the college culture, the way that Providence College has treated Dr. Corvino is nothing short of appalling. GLAAD calls on media outlets to cover the growing support for LGBT people at religious universities, or even the willingness to have the conversation.