When Chase Martinson took a break from his studies at Hannibal-LaGrange University to manage his health issues, he expected it to be temporary hiccup on his path to becoming a nurse.
But trying to get back into his degree program is proving to be much harder the second time around, and only one thing has changed: Martinson came out as gay on Facebook.
Martinson reapplied to Hannibal-LaGrange, a small school about 120 miles north of St. Louis, a few months ago, quickly getting an acceptance letter and even a note saying he was eligible for the honors program. Everything was on track -- until the next letter came, putting his application on hold:
"Admittance is open to academically and morally qualified students," the school wrote Martinson on March 4. "Admission is open to students who are in agreement with the HLGU Student Life Guidelines."
The school directed Martinson to pages 20and 27 of the student-life guidelines, where the school's sexual impropriety rules are spelled out. Both pages explicitly forbid "homosexual activities." Page 27 even prohibits appearing to be gay.
"I just wanted to be me, and I never had any idea this would happen," Martinson tells Daily RFT. "I thought I was already in, but then they send me this letter saying, 'Just kidding.'"
HLGU prides itself on being a Baptist school with a "biblical" -- read, heteronormative -- definition of marriage.
"It is God's intent that heterosexual union is the only acceptable expression of sexuality and must be reserved for marriage," says the school's standard of sexual conduct. "This expression of a self-giving love is viewed as a gift from God. All members of the University community should abstain from behavior which may lead to a violation of God's standards on sexual activities.
The school lists homosexuality -- along with sexual abuse, sexual harassment, incest and sexual assault -- as "misuses of God's gift."
"There's really nothing I can do. It's just really sad," says Martinson, who is from Jefferson County. He's decided to enroll at the University of Missouri-St. Louis next year. "I have no desire to go back to that school."
Martin says he's not interested in pursuing legal action against the school, which is probably good since federal law only prohibits discrimination against students for characteristics like race and gender -- not sexual orientation. In Missouri, it's technically legal to fire someone for being gay.
Note: This story previously misstated which law prohibits discrimination. It has been edited and corrected.
"Private institutions generally have a lot more freedom to make decisions that we wouldn't want government institutions to make," says Marcia McCormick, a constitutional-law professor at Saint Louis University, to KHQA. "Sometimes, religious, private institutions have even more ability to make decisions based on religious belief and religious practices than other private organizations do."
Even with a new school on the horizon, Martinson says he feels singled out for his sexuality, especially since the same rules that ban homosexuality also prohibit pornography, sex before marriage and cohabitating.
"You want to tell me 95 percent of the guys on that campus aren't looking at porn?" says Martinson. "I'm not the only one breaking rules."