Federal discrimination lawsuit over gay rights targets Chicago college

A federal discrimination lawsuit over gay rights is targeting a local college.

Chicagoan Megan Steffen is one of dozens of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit calling for anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ students at religious institutions.  

Steffen says she faced discrimination from the administration at Moody Bible Institute for more than two years. 

"I just don't think you can prepare yourself for the specific ways you're going to be hurt," said Steffen, who is gay. "These people, who are supposed to academically support me, are investigating me. It felt very, very violating."

Steffen graduated in 2020 with a degree in human service and counseling. 

Moody Bible Institute is listed in a lawsuit that is aimed at changing U.S. Department of Education policy under Title IX.  

Moody is not a defendant in the case.  

Right now, hundreds of colleges and universities can discriminate based on a student's sexual orientation or gender choice because of a religious exemption.

"Religious exemptions to civil rights statues really are rooted in racism," said Paul Southwick, a director with the Religious Exemption Accountability Project.  

The organization filed the federal lawsuit.  


Steffen knows the court's decision won't affect her, but she's hoping it makes a difference for students in the future.  

"With this lawsuit, what we're hoping is that students at any campus are able to get the same respect and protection no matter what their sexual orientation or gender is," Steffen said.

Moody Bible Institute released a statement regarding the lawsuit.  

It reads in part: 

"Moody Bible Institute is not a defendant, but we are reviewing this federal lawsuit carefully and will continue to follow it very closely along with other schools, as this would greatly impact students being able to choose and access the college of their choice such as Moody Bible Institute. As a faith-based institution, Moody Bible Institute holds to a number of biblical convictions, including a historic, biblical understanding of marriage as part of broader religious convictions around human sexuality and gender. I would like to draw your attention to an on-the-record statement issued by the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), of which we are a member organization. As articulated in that statement, upon admission students voluntarily agree to support the doctrinal statement and adhere to school policies, of which includes areas related to human sexuality.  We take reports of student experience very seriously and are committed to learning, growing, and deepening our understanding of how we can best provide and strengthen support for all students on our campuses. We believe all persons are created in the image of God and possess full dignity, value, and worth, and therefore, bullying, harassment, and assault of any kind are not tolerated on our campuses."