In the wake of student protests, a vote from Belmont faculty demanding a clarification of hiring policy, and a groundswell of national attention, Coach Lisa Howe issued her first public statement yesterday through her attorney about her controversial departure last week.
The statement, first published in The Advocate, did not settle or even address many of the questions surrounding the matter — starting with whether Howe indeed offered her resignation, or was forced to resign by university officials displeased with her same-sex relationship. But it does suggest a public debate over the issue — and Belmont's policies toward GLBT students and faculty — is just beginning.
Full text below — thanks to Belmont's student paper, Belmont Vision, which deserves kudos for staying on top of the story.
I cannot adequately express my thanks to the many, many students, faculty members, parents and friends who have shown and expressed their support of me and my family, or to the people and organizations I didn’t even know before this series of events who likewise are getting in touch and offering encouragement. I am deeply touched and will be forever grateful to them.
No one wants their private family life made public or likes to think that people are talking about them, but I feel like I need to explain just a little about myself, for I have always held my head high and will continue to do so. I believe I am a good, moral person, who cares for others. Those and other basic Christian tenets are important to me, to how I live my life, including as a coach, and to what I want to teach my child as he or she grows up. I have never intentionally detracted from the goodness or holiness inherent in any person or institution, and I do my best not to judge people based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, religion, ability, or sexual orientation or gender identity.
I am a dedicated, respected, and successful soccer coach. I was a good student athlete recruiter, had an organized and professionally run program, and was one of Belmont’s best employees. None of that changed when I acknowledged that I am a lesbian and that my partner and I are expecting a baby. I am proud of who I am and my family and our future, and I want every person — no matter what race, religion, nationality or sexuality they represent — to feel the same way. Yes, I would have preferred not to be in the headlines, but if my situation leads to one person beginning to feel acceptance now, or one more person becoming more understanding of diversity, and if people can begin to talk openly and honestly about topics they never broached before, then this unfortunate situation will have served a positive purpose. While the past several days have been difficult, I can compare this period to something familiar to student athletes: the summer workout. While that is exhausting and painful, it prepares us to be able to accomplish something great in the future.
As a collegiate soccer coach for the last 17 years, my goals have always been to make my players better and to give them the tools they need to reach their potential. I believe that I am continuing to do that, although more indirectly now. This is an educational experience for all of us — including Belmont University.
I respectfully ask members of the media to turn their attention away from me and toward the broader issues at stake that affect so many people in the Belmont community — such as what it means to be a diverse Christian community and how we can support and respect each other despite our differences. I refer you to my attorney, Abby Rubenfeld, from here in Nashville who is a pioneer in this field, and to the organizations who share my belief that understanding is a Christian value and a most worthwhile and needed goal.