BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — By a vote of 35 to 28, Texas A&M University's student senate voted in favour of a measure that would allow students to opt out of funding the campus's queer resource centre if they object on religious grounds, the Dallas Voice reports.
The vote is part of a pattern of legislative attempts to cut funding to such centres.
According to the report, the title of the A&M bill was altered from “GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill” to the “The Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” with specific references to the GLBT Resource Center removed. Still, the measure's opponents, who packed the emotionally charged senate meeting before the vote April 3, argued that the change did not alter the bill’s "discriminatory, anti-gay intent."
The report said the margin by which the vote passed was closer than expected and may not be substantial enough to avoid a veto by student-body president John Claybrook, who has reportedly indicated that he hasn't made up his mind whether he will pursue that course.
Online petitions were initiated as a result of the vote, urging Claybrook to veto the bill, as the previous student-body president did when a similar bill was put forward in 2011, the Voice notes. There were also calls for alumni to pledge to "end donations to the university until the discrimination stops."
On the same day that the A&M vote was held, the University of Houston Student Government Association voted unanimously in favour of a resolution opposing a state budget amendment aimed at cutting funding for universities with queer resource centres, the Dallas Voice quotes Daniel Williams of Equality Texas as saying. But Republican Bill Zedler of Arlington, who spearheaded the amendment that was expected to be put to a vote March 4, has withdrawn it.
The Voice said it was not able to get a comment about what led to Zedler's decision to pull the amendment.
Equality Texas executive director Chuck Smith, who called Zedler's amendment "misguided and misinformed," says that for the most part, student fees go toward queer centres, "so there is little, if any, state funding allotted them."
Representative Chris Turner, a Democrat from Grand Prairie who defeated Zedler in 2008 but lost to him in 2010, told the Voice that the amendment "would only continue to harm LGBT youth."
“Many young Texans struggle with their sexual identity every day,” Turner says. “We, as state legislators, have no business making their struggle even more difficult by proposing mean-spirited and divisive measures.”