A new bill before the Texas A&M Student Senate that campus GLBT activists are calling discriminatory has generated controversy, leading up to an open forum on the measure during the middle of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness Week on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 65-70, sponsored by Chris Woolsey, would call on the Texas A&M administration to allow 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 bill is specifically geared towards the GLBT Center, and does not allow students to withhold their fee money from other groups to which they object.
"It's a good way of masking prejudice and discrimination against the [GLBT] community," GLBT Aggies Vice President Maria Miguel said, according to Texas A&M student newspaper The Battalion. "It's making the people who are very against the [GLBT] community sound really nice by using religion as a cover-up."
As nonprofit Campus Pride pointed out, Texas A&M is ranked as one of the least gay-friendly campuses in the country by the Princeton Review. The Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center provides programming and support services for the gay and lesbian community on campus, and has been open since 2007.
The Battalion reported that withholding funds from the GLBT center would allow students who opt out to save about $2 each.
Woolsey did not respond to requests for comment by The Huffington Post, but at a March 20 student senate meeting, he said allowing students to withhold even a minimal amount of money is worth it.
“There is not a traditional family values center that will promote the opposite of what the GLBT center promotes,” Woolsey said. “Since we are funding one of those and not the other one, I believe that students should be able to choose whether to pay for it or not.”
A group on campus called the Texas Aggie Conservatives has been pushing over the past two years to defund the GLBT center. In 2011, the student senate passed a bill that was later vetoed which would've required the student government to support state legislation forcing GLBT resource centers to provide matching funds "to traditional sexual education." The Texas Aggie Conservatives and Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in June 2012 over which student groups on campus are funded, alleging bias against right-wing clubs.
Camden Breeding, the former president of the GLBT Aggies, told the Dallas Voice that they're gathering students to speak against the bill this week.
"Basically [the bill is] a way to institutionalize discrimination using the guise of religion," Breeding told the Dallas Voice. "They couldn’t put it into effect because the Supreme Court’s already ruled on it. It’s a hurtful bill. It’s another bill that’s targeting the LGBT community here."