On Wednesday evening, March 20th, a member of the Texas A&M University Student Senate introduced S.B. 65-70: The GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill. This bill proposes “allowing students who object, for religious purposes, to the use of their student fees and tuition to fund this center to opt out of paying an amount equal to their share of the Center’s funding from their fee and tuition bills.” The author suggests that students have the religious right to “opt-out” of the student fees that go towards maintaining the GLBT Resource Center. However, as currently constructed this bill is a direct and blatant attack on the LGBT Aggie community. We hope to do everything possible to ensure that this bill does not pass through the Texas A&M University Student Senate.
Texas A&M University is currently ranked the least-friendly public institution for LGBT students by the Princeton Review. Because of this reality, we are still in the process of fighting to exist and to be positively acknowledged at Texas A&M.
As it follows, the introduction of S.B. 65-70 is not the first instance that the LGBT community has been targeted by members of the Student Senate. In 2011, during the 63rd Student Senate Session, a group of senators introduced S.B. 63-106: The Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill. This bill proposed that the student senate support and advocate for an amendment that was concurrently before the Texas Legislature “to require GLBT resource centers to provide matching funds to traditional sexual education” and asked Texas A&M University “that such funding not be acquired through increased student fees.” In effect, the bill would have created funds for “traditional sexual education” programming by draining funds away from the GLBT Resource Center, while simultaneously creating a hostile environment on campus.
This bill passed the Student Senate but fortunately was later vetoed by then Student Body President Jacob D. Robinson; the senate attempted to overturn the veto but was unsuccessful. S.B. 63-106 was a direct attack on the LGBT community at Texas A&M University. Our resources were not dispensable in the 63rd session, and they are not dispensable now in the 65th session.
As a community dedicated to respecting diversity, we support measures sincerely aimed at protecting the religious beliefs of Texas A&M students, including those of many within the LGBT community. However, while SB 65-70 claims to promote religious freedom, we cannot ignore that it only allows students with one religious belief to control how their student fees are used: only religious traditions that disapprove of LGBT interests are given a voice. A bill truly dedicated to allowing religious designation of fees would make the opportunity available to students of all faiths toward whatever policy creates a moral conflict of interest for them. Given the extremely narrow scope of this bill, we can only conclude that its interest lies not in promoting religious freedom but specifically in targeting the LGBT community. Whatever the intentions of the bill may be, its effect is clearly discriminatory.
We stand for commitment to each other as fellow students of Texas A&M University. Our LGBT members are not separate from the community as a whole; they are an integral part of the backbone of the student body and of campus life. Depriving them of the resources that meet their unique needs and that help them succeed affects the entire community. The Texas A&M family includes students with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and needs, bound together by our commitment to our university and to each other. An attack on our LGBT students is an attack on the Aggie spirit we all share.
It is unacceptable that the Texas A&M student senate is willing to institutionalize a forum for the student body to express its disapproval of LGBT students. This bill sends a clear message of exclusion to past, current, and prospective LGBT students, as well as staff and faculty.
In light of these events, it is exceedingly important that we stand together, not only as a community, but as valued and respected members of the Aggie family. We need support from EVERYONE! This includes current students, former students, community members, and Allies. On Wednesday, April 3, at 7:00pm, there will be an open forum in Koldus 144 where students and community members will be given the opportunity to speak directly to the student senate, and we need you ALL to show up.
While this show of support will be absolutely crucial to our efforts, we want you to know that this is not the only action you can take. You DO NOT have to wait until April 3rd to let your voice be heard! Now is the time to meet with your student senators and explain to them exactly why this bill is so hurtful to our community. Now is the time to have conversations with your roommates, classmates, and friends. Now is the time for former students and community members to step in and speak up by writing letters of support sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters can also be mailed to GLBT Resource Center, Cain Hall C-103, 1257 TAMU, College Station, TX, 77843-1257.
Every single one of us has a story, and it is the sharing of these stories that is our best hope of changing the hearts and minds of those who are in support of this discriminatory measure.
“An Aggie does not LIE about who they are, CHEAT someone out of a positive experience, STEAL someone else’s dignity, or TOLERATE those who do.”
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Aggies Est. 1976