After being amended in committee Tuesday, the Religious Funding Exemption Bill, more widely known as the GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill, passed the Texas A&M Student Senate by a vote of 35-28 according to The Eagle. Senators heard nearly three hours of testimony, almost exclusively in opposition to the bill, during Wednesday's public testimony which saw attendees spilling out into additional rooms and hallways and repeated meeting delays.
The Eagle: Emotions were close to the surface. Some senators cursed, and some students stormed out. The woman tallying the senators' decision started crying as the votes were cast.
The bill now heads to the desk of the student body president John Claybrook who has reiterated that a veto is an option but he is still mulling what to do. The somewhat more narrow than expected margin means that a veto could conceivably be sustained. Of note, Claybrook defeated the bill's co-author Thomas McNutt in last year's runoff for the student body presidency.
“I don't wish students to be disenfranchised with this or anything that this body does because these are students who have a home here and who are cared about by thousands and thousands and thousands of students. The actions by a few should not make them feel like this is not their home,” he said.
If signed, the legislation would be forwarded to A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, A&M Chief Financial Officer B.J. Crain, System Chancellor John Sharp and the regents, but administrators within A&M's student affairs and finance divisions would have final say over any changes to the center's budget, according to a university spokesman.
The Aggie's student paper The Battalion editorialized against the bill and encourages Claybrook to veto the measure.
The bill originally advocated that a minute part of student monies be withheld from one group, disregarding the University's constitutional obligation to be viewpoint neutral in its funding system.
The altered bill dropped “GLBT” from its title and “GLBT Resource Center” from the bill entirely. The foundational change was an enactment stating that Senate shall support allowing students to opt out of paying tuition and fee monies to fund “various services” to which they object for “religious and moral purposes.”
Part of the problem is you can make an argument to morally oppose just about any service.
The amendments approved Tuesday only attempt to make the bill “not wrong” rather than making it worth a signature from the student body president or a moment of the A&M administration's time.
It's likely no accident that the measure to chip away at funding for the campus GLBT Resource Center came in the middle of A&M's GLBT Awareness Week. In contrast to the Senate's focus on liberating students from having to pay the less than $2 in fees on moral grounds, A&M GLBT Resource Center spent the day focused on meeting real student needs such as employment.
At Wednesday's awareness week events, a Career Center staff member will discuss job searching as a member of the GLBT community for “Wednesday Wisdom.”
“It is helpful for anyone searching for a job,” Gardner said. “It will be geared more toward giving students the knowledge in figuring out if an employer has a particular statement of nondiscrimination around sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Of course, today's GLBT Awareness Week topic is almost too perfect to spin the heads of more than a few conservative Christian Aggies who supported this legislation. Faisal Alam, a GLBT Muslim activist, will be the keynote speaker at a presentation called Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims.