By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com April 05 2013 3:09 PM ET
Texas A&M University's student body president has vetoed a Student Senate–approved policy that would have allowed students with religious objections to the campus LGBT center to opt out of funding it.
In an open letter to students, John Claybrook wrote, “Even without the wording that specified particular groups that would be affected in the final version of this bill, the sentiment towards the bill has not changed and has caused great harm to our reputation as a student body and to the students feeling disenfranchised by this bill.” It is unclear if there will be an override attempt, but there does not appear to be the two-thirds majority needed to override, The Eagle of Bryan–College Station, Texas, noted in reporting the veto today. If Claybrook had signed the bill, it would have gone to university administrators for final approval.
The measure, as adopted Wednesday night, would have let students withhold a portion of their fees if any university service offends their religious beliefs. It was aimed primarily at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Resource Center, but after several weeks of controversy, the name and scope of the legislation were broadened from the GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill to the Religious Funding Exemption Bill.
The 35-28 vote came “after three hours of tear-filled testimony and impassioned debate,” the paper reported. “The Religious Funding Exemption bill is a facade to deprive GLBT students of resources to create a safe environment,” gay student Andrew Lupo told the senators. “I see so many of you, you’re young — 18 and 19 years old — and there is a great future for you. Is this how you want to begin your career — by attacking your own Aggies, your own community?”
Another student, Aaron Ackerman, spoke in support of the measure, saying it’s “dangerous” if “some organization, government or otherwise, can make a person do what is against their most deeply held beliefs.”
The Eagle noted that Texas A&M is a traditionally conservative school; in the Princeton Review’s 2012 ranking of colleges on various factors, it was the least LGBT-friendly school in Texas and the seventh least-friendly public university in the nation.