After Controversy, Lesbian Couple Wins St. Joe's Alumni Contest

After public outcry to let them in the contest in the first place, lesbian couple wins alumni association's Valentine's Day competition

By Dan Stamm
|  Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012  |  Updated 12:56 PM EDT
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Saint Joe's University is now allowing a lesbian couple to enter a Valentine's Day contest after the couple says they were initially denied.

NBCPhiladelphia.com - Justin Pizzi

Saint Joe's University is now allowing a lesbian couple to enter a Valentine's Day contest after the couple says they were initially denied.

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The lesbian couple that which initially denied entrance into a Valentine’s Day contest by St. Joseph’s University’s Alumni Association, and then later allowed entry following a social media push, has won the "How I Met My Hawk Mate" contest.

Megan Edwards and Katie MacTurk were announced the winners Tuesday on the Alumni Association's Facebook page:

Dear Alumni,

We sincerely thank everyone who participated in the “How I Met My Hawkmate” contest. We are grateful to all alumni who shared their heartwarming stories with us.

Congratulations to our winners Megan Edwards ’09 and Katie MacTurk ’09.

The "Hawkmate" contest was a way for alumni who met on Hawk Hill to share love stories and photos.

Edwards and MacTurk say they submitted their photo and love story about meeting senior year to the alumni group’s Facebook page in hopes that they would earn the most “Likes” by Feb. 14. After days of back-and-forth emails, they weren't able to get the photo posted because the alumni association refused.

The small Catholic university found itself in the middle of a controversy as people turned to the web to accuse the school of discriminating against Edwards and MacTurk due to their sexual orientation.

Edwards and MacTurk claim that the Jesuit school's alumni association refused to use their photo because they are a lesbian couple and that, when pressed, the alumni association claimed the decision was made because the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize same-sex relationships.

Once the couple’s story was shared on Facebook -- with a request that people let St. Joe's know that they considered this discrimination -- the SJU Alumni Facebook page was quickly inundated with dozens of comments from people upset that they didn't allegedly treat all graduates equally.

The attention and support they got overwhelmed the couple, MacTurk told NBC10.

It also did not go unnoticed by the alumni association as they reacted to NBC10's story and the social media outcry that resulted. Saint Joe's Alumni Association also responded to their original decision not to post the photo:

"Saint Joseph’s University fully supports and is in agreement with the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality and same sex marriage.

As a Catholic, Jesuit university, Saint Joseph’s is a welcoming, inclusive community. Our focus is on respect and caring for all individuals as individuals."

"I never thought that many people would support us and really fight for this," said MacTurk. "I think it attests to the caliber of students that St. Joe's producers that so many people would really stand up for what they believe is right no matter who the injustice has been committed against."

The association posted the "Hawk Mate" photo Feb. 2 -- it actually wound up being posted twice -- and it easily won with more than 2,500 “Likes” between the two posts.

For winning, Edwards and MacTurk -- who plan to wed next year -- will receive a $100 restaurant gift certificate to a restaurant of their choice. They gave their reward to the St. Joe's Gay/Straight Alliance, MacTurk told NBC10.

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