Every week, managing editor Patrick Williams disappears into his office and reemerges a cranky, nicotine-addicted, third-person-referring superhero we like to call Buzz.
Awwww, man. Why Texas? Why must you always be the turd in the punch bowl of progress?
Buzz is talking -- this time -- about Texas A&M, the intellectual center of bubbadom. One week -- one! -- after the U.S. Supreme Court heard hopeful, moving arguments in cases that could advance gay and lesbian people one step closer to full personhood under law, the university's student senate is poised to take a symbolic leap backward in bigotry with a bill that would allow students with religious objections to opt out of paying the share of their student fees that fund the school's GLBT Resource Center.
The bill still has to be passed by a committee before it makes it student senate floor for a vote, but Kimberly Villa, president of the GLBT Aggies, a student group separate from the resource center, says she expects it to clear the senate with enough votes to override a possible veto by the student body president.
So, we asked her, what's it like being a member of the GLBT student organization at A&M right now.
"Our organization is, you know, we're pissed," she says.
But they're not going down without a fight. They've put a call out for support from former students and are meeting with student senators -- some who might not have ever talked with an actual gay person before -- to try to persuade them to reject a bill whose practical effect on students would be basically nil. Less than a dollar of an individual students fees go to support the resource center's budget, she estimates.
So this not about money. It's about bigotry.
OK, wait. Before you conservative sorts start spouting off about religious freedom and how no one should be forced to fund things they morally oppose, allow Buzz to make three points. First point: Since when? Second point: The bill doesn't allow students to opt out of paying fees for other programs they might morally oppose at A&M, like athletics, say. It's straight-up animus aimed squarely at gay people. (Much like the Defense of Marriage Act, sadly.) Third point: Until there's a check box on the IRS 1040 form that allows Buzz to get a refund for our share of the costs of coal and oil subsidies, Hellfire missiles fired at U.S. citizens and Senator Ted Cruz's paycheck, just shut up already with the whole "opt out for religious purposes" nonsense. Communal life is not a cafeteria. It's prix fixe.
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The good news is that if it passes, the bill won't be binding on the school's administration, Villa says, but it will be the senate's statement of what they think is the student body's opinion and that's "really upsetting mainly because the voices that are being so loud against the queer community here are so few."
Unfortunately, those loud, fearful voices will be the sound that stings the hearts of the GLBT students attending the school, and they'll be the ones heard by smart GLBT kids who might be considering applying at A&M -- though not for long, we expect. Why would any intelligent, self-respecting GLBT high school kid what to associate with a bunch of ... well ... dicks.
Come to think of it, that's not a bad question for A&M alumni to ask themselves the next time they get hit for a donation.
If the bill makes it to the senate floor, it will be debated at next Wednesday's session at 7 p.m., which will be webcast at senate.tamu.edu, Villa says.