Do MSU policies protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

Yes. Mississippi State students and employees are protected from discrimination in employment, academics, and other programs by university policies and by federal laws. LGBTQ individuals are valued and respected members of the Mississippi State community, and we strive to ensure that our policies and practices reflect that.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination on the basis of sex, which the Supreme Court has interpreted to include discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972 forbids sex discrimination in higher education generally, and likewise has been interpreted by regulatory guidance to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Mississippi State Operating Policies 3.03 and 3.04 expressly prohibit discrimination and harassment on either of these bases.

Do MSU policies ensure equal benefits for same-sex spouses?

Yes. Marriage equality is a fundamental right and university policies barring discrimination based on sexual orientation prohibit differential treatment based on who someone marries. Spousal benefits like eligibility for health insurance coverage apply fully to same-sex spouses just as they apply to others.

What is MSU’s position on harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

Harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a form of sexual harassment and will not be tolerated at MSU. While differences of opinion on contentious issues must be respected, the targeting of individuals for threats, mockery, or other severe or pervasive harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable in connection with any university program or activity, by any university employee, or by any guest on MSU’s campuses.

What is the university’s position on anti-LGBTQ speech on campus?

Mississippi State unequivocally condemns hate speech in any form. As a public institution, however, the university is bound by free speech principles to permit expression that may conflict with the institution’s values of inclusion and respect. For example, in recent years, the university has occasionally seen groups with anti-LGBTQ messages use portions of campus to hold protests.

The university retains the right to restrict the time, place, and manner of on-campus speech on a content neutral basis. However, MSU cannot prohibit speech solely on grounds that it expresses hate or controversial ideas. Broadly speaking, the university believes the best response to hateful or poorly-informed speech is a strong, well-informed rebuttal.

If hateful speech crosses the line into severe, pervasive, or persistent targeting of a particular individual, it becomes harassment and intervention by the university becomes appropriate. Conversely, individuals who voluntarily choose to engage with speakers making controversial statements generally assume the risk that harsh or uncivil things may be said to them.