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Iowa Diocese Reaches Agreement on Scholarship for Gay Student
Barb Arland-Fye
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012
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Student Keaton Fuller of Clinton, Iowa, is pictured in a photo provided by the Eychaner Foundation.
DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) —The Diocese of Davenport has reached an agreement that will allow a gay student at Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton to publicly receive a scholarship awarded by an Iowa organization that promotes tolerance, quelling a controversy over presentation of the award.

Keaton Fuller, a senior at Prince of Peace, is one of eight recipients of a Matthew Shepard Scholarship from the Eychaner Foundation based in Des Moines. The scholarship honors the memory of Shepard, a 21-year-old tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay.

Under the agreement, Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of schools, will read a script prepared by the Eychaner Foundation and reviewed by Bishop Martin J. Amos of Davenport during graduation ceremonies at Prince of Peace Church May 20. A member of the scholarship committee will present an eagle statue to Fuller.

In a May 11 news release announcing the agreement, Bishop Amos said, "Principles of mutual respect and careful listening exhibited by all parties allowed a solution to emerge."
"We have many things we agree upon, and have also agreed to accept the fact that we also have some things we disagree about," he added. "But that shouldn't prevent all of us from celebrating Keaton Fuller's success over 13 years in Catholic schools and our mutual hope for his success in college and beyond."

The diocese's decision not to permit an Eychaner representative to present the scholarship to Fuller had generated national press attention.

The diocese said May 7 that diocesan policy prohibits any person or organization that "promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church" from presenting at a diocesan institution.

"While the diocese supports anti-bullying programs promoted by the Eychaner Foundation, its advocacy for same-sex marriage is contrary to Catholic social teaching," said Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan director of communications.

Eychaner told The Catholic Messenger, Davenport diocesan newspaper, in response to a question, that the foundation supports equality in marriage for any two people committed to monogamy.

The Catholic Church opposes efforts to define marriage as anything other than the union of one man and one woman.

Fuller said in a statement that he was glad the matter had been resolved.

"My biggest fear was that this matter would overwhelm my classmates' significant accomplishments and the joy we are feel in graduating," he said. "My family is focusing now on graduation and celebrating the end of the school year."

In a May 7 letter addressed to the Prince of Peace student body and staff, Fuller had expressed disappointment with the diocese's decision but had plenty of praise for his school.

"Being the lone openly gay student in a small, Catholic school has not always been easy. Upon first realizing I was gay, I suffered a lot of anxiety over wondering how everybody in this school would treat me if I were to tell people the truth about my sexual orientation," he said. "When I did begin to tell people, I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find that nearly everybody treated me with the same acceptance and respect as they always had. I have always been very grateful to you for this."

Learning that he had been awarded the foundation's highest scholarship—the $40,000 Gold Matthew Shepard Scholarship—was one of the happiest moments in his life, he wrote. "When word got around about this achievement, I received a great deal of praise from many of you, for which I am extremely grateful."

Rich Eychaner, who established the foundation that has granted 130 scholarships since 2000, said its mission "is to promote tolerance, understanding and anti-bullying policies."
"We help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students survive and work to prevent teen suicide," he added.

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