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Seattle Pacific University students rally to support gay professor after discrimination claims

Jéaux Rinedahl, who is gay, teaches part-time at SPU, but says he was denied a full-time position because of his sexual orientation.

SEATTLE — Students from Seattle Pacific University rallied on campus Friday evening in support of an instructor who claims the university discriminated against him.

Jéaux Rinedahl, who is gay, began teaching at SPU part-time last year, and recently applied for a newly-available full-time position in the nursing department. He said though superiors were initially excited he applied, he was later told he did not qualify.

“That’s when the announcement came, that the reason why I was not (qualified), was because I am not heterosexual, and that's when I just started to freeze, and just started feeling sick to my stomach,” Rinedahl told KING 5 earlier this week.

Rinedahl sued SPU in King County Superior Court this week, alleging the school illegally discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation.

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from workplace discrimination.

RELATED: Gay teacher sues Seattle Pacific University after being denied full-time position

For some of the gathered students Friday, Rinedahl’s experience felt all too personal.

Leah Duff studies music therapy at SPU and identifies as queer. She helped organize the protest.

“It’s horrifying, honestly, to hear about it,” she said of Rinedahl’s experience. “Like, you would take my money and have me graduate from this school, but you wouldn’t hire me here as a professor, is that what I’m hearing? It’s just disheartening, so a lot of us are just really angry, and this is a great way to show it.”

She said she was glad to see the dozens of students and handful of faculty and staff that came to support the message of equality.

Dr. Patrick McDonald, an SPU philosophy professor, said Rinedahl’s treatment was “outrageous,” but he had come to expect it.

“For a long time, I’ve been frustrated with that,” he said. “There’s been attempts to change it, and I’ve been having conversations with many students for many years to change that part of our culture.”

Seattle Pacific, which is a private Christian school, issued a statement Thursday night. The institution thanked him for his work and said it was reviewing the facts of the lawsuit.

“We recognize that Mr. Rinedahl’s lawsuit raises questions of Christian practice which are being debated vigorously throughout the global church,” the university statement reads.

But for many outside Friday, holding signs and waving colorful pool noodles, more debate doesn't cut it - they want SPU to change its policies.

"God is not homophobic,” Duff said. “God loves everyone, loves all, loves me. Loves you. God loves everybody and to see the way SPU is not delivering on that message is extremely disappointing."