Under Texas A&M student senate bill, students could opt out of GLBT Center fees

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A bill proposed in the student senate at Texas A&M University in College Station last week would let students choose not to pay the portion of their student fees that would otherwise fund the school’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center.

Specifically, reports the Houston Chronicle, the measure would permit “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.”

“While it can be argued that the GLBT Resource Center is a worthy use of funds in order to provide a welcoming environment for vulnerable populations at Texas A&M,” the bill further states, “it is reasonable for students to object to a use of their own money that is in direct opposition to their own religious values.”

The GLBT Center, which has been operating since 2007, describes itself as “a resource and referral center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Aggies and their straight supporters.” It’s unclear exactly how much money the Center stands to lose if the bill passes.

The polarizing bill has supporters and detractors.

Supporters argue that students who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds shouldn’t have to pay for the GLBT Resource Center.

The bill’s opponents say the bill is discriminatory. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Aggies organization issued a statement calling the bill “a direct and blatant attack,” according to the Chronicle.

Camden Breeding, former president of GLBT Aggies, told the Dallas Voice that the A&M bill is “a way to institutionalize discrimination using the guise of religion.”

Breeding contends that a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision makes the bill illegal. The general ruling in that case, Univ. of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, was that the First Amendment enables public universities to use activity fees to fund programs that facilitate extracurricular student speech.

“The Supreme Court’s already ruled on it,” Breeding asserted. “It’s a hurtful bill. It’s another bill that’s targeting the LGBT community here.”

Breeding’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s holding may not be the final word, though.

As Judge Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the opinion for the majority in the 2000 case Breeding cites: “If a university decided that its students’ First Amendment interests were better protected by some type of optional or refund system, it would be free to do so.”

GLBT student leaders told the Houston Chronicle that there will be an open forum on campus April 3 at which students can provide their opinions on the bill.

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Tags : gay rights
Eric Owens