During the recent Summer Leadership Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, discussion surfaced at the Board of Directors’ meeting about a statement from American College Health Association endorsing marriage equality. The Board noted the research cited by ACHA which indicates adverse effects on personal and community health and wellness where marriage equality does not exist (see related research and resources).

As Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, whose sweet spot is healthy people and healthy communities, we believe that equality—in all aspects—is an integral element of serving our members and supporting the students, faculty, staff, and communities that participate in our programs and services. As the Board examined our Association’s stake in the matter, they acknowledged that marriage equality policies affect campus recreation departments through establishing access to programs and services offered to students, faculty, staff, and community participants.

The Board thoughtfully considered the broad spectrum of member opinions relating to marriage equality issues before ultimately deciding unanimously that articulating and endorsing a statement in support of marriage equality  was in the best interest of NIRSA because this Association is founded on principles of inclusion and our mission, vision, and values are aimed at inspiring healthy people and healthy communities. As leaders in higher education, we recognize that the denial of equal civil rights can contribute to diminished health and quality of life.

There is ample evidence today—e.g.  Title IX, FIFA’s “Say No to Racism” campaign, the Rooney Rule, and many others—regarding the power of sport and recreation to influence social change. Moreover, history demonstrates that many movements for social change start on college campuses. Consistent with our professional code of ethics—first adopted in 1984–which requires members to strive to practice nondiscrimination on the basis of diversity related to age, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion and sexual orientation, this statement represents one of many domains within equity, diversity and inclusion which NIRSA aims to create opportunities for engagement, education, and action.

The Association recently adopted a Statement for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion which will be a guiding light around EDI-based initiatives for both individual members and campuses, as well as for NIRSA. In concert with the recently constituted NIRSA Strategic Value Commissions, NIRSA is committed to weaving Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into the tapestry of collegiate recreation. Through educational content at NIRSA professional development events, NIRSA is continually expanding opportunities for members to grow in this realm.

While NIRSA’s Statement Supporting Marriage Equality represents an organizational position of NIRSA, it is not intended to represent the positions of all individual, institutional, or corporate members of the Association. Notwithstanding their enrollment as members of NIRSA, each individual, institutional, or corporate member is entitled to hold and express their own individual position, independent of NIRSA. All NIRSA members are invited and encouraged to make their voices heard through the Association’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Community of Practice—an online forum where members can engage in discussion, ask questions, connect with colleagues, and share resources around the diverse array of issues related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

For more information about NIRSA’s Marriage Equality Statement, please contact NIRSA’s Executive Director Pam Watts, or any member of the NIRSA Board of Directors.

Learn about the NIRSA Board of Directors here.