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R.I. school reschedules gay marriage prof’s talk

PROVIDENCE (AP) — The provost of Providence College said Wednesday the Roman Catholic school has rescheduled a talk by a nationally-known proponent of gay marriage, just days after the talk was canceled.

Provost Hugh Lena announced that Wayne State University professor John Corvino will appear at the school opposite Sherif Girgis, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton. Girgis is a well-known opponent of gay marriage.

Lena said the event would likely be held during the spring semester.

Lena announced last weekend that a talk by Corvino scheduled for today was canceled. He cited a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops document that says Catholic institutions shouldn’t honor those who defy the faith’s fundamental moral principles. The church opposes gay marriage.

He also said the event would violate a college policy that public forums on controversial issues present both sides. The decision to cancel Corvino’s talk, “The Meaning of (Gay) Marriage,” raised academic freedom concerns among some students and faculty members.

“I know that the events of the last few days have engendered a great deal of discussion on our campus, from alumni and friends of the college, and from the media,” the provost said in a school-wide email Wednesday. “I hope most will agree that rescheduling the event as it was originally proposed is the proper course of action.”

Lena said the college’s intent was to postpone the talk until the school could book someone of national repute to present opposing arguments. He said his mistake was saying the event was canceled.

“The administration’s decision to cancel the event had nothing to do with Dr. Corvino,” he wrote.

Corvino, who chairs Wayne State’s philosophy department, noted in an email statement that Lena did not directly apologize to him.

“While I appreciate the provost’s kind words about my reputation, it’s striking that he explicitly apologizes to everyone except the person whose invitation he abruptly revoked and then reinstated,” Corvino said. “That said I look forward to a rigorous debate with my friend Sherif Girgis.”

Last year, Corvino and Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the anti-gay marriage group, the National Organization for Marriage, co-wrote the book “Debating Same-Sex Marriage.”

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