COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The student body president at Texas A&M University on Friday vetoed a religious freedom bill passed by the student senate earlier this week that opponents said had only one intent — defunding the LGBT student center.
In an open letter to the student body, John Claybrook said that “after much research and deliberation, I have confidently decided to veto S.B. 65-70, The Religious Funding Exemption Bill.”
The measure — formerly known as the GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill — was designed to allow students to choose not to pay portions of their student fees to specific university services that conflict with their religious beliefs, and was approved Wednesday by a vote of 33-30.
The bill’s title was changed and its language altered as to broaden its scope 24 hours prior to the senate session, but Claybrook said that despite the changes, the “sentiment” toward the bill had not changed, and had already damaged the school’s reputation.
“Even with the wording that specified particular groups that would be affected in the final version of this bill, the sentiment toward 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.
“Although much adjusted in its final form, the good accomplished through this bill pales in comparison to the damage done. The damage must stop today.”
In its original form, the bill was designed to allow students to opt out of paying fees that fund the school’s LGBTQ campus center based on their religious beliefs. The GLBT Resource Center receives about $100,000 a year in funding provided by student fees, an average contribution of approximately $2 per student.
The debate over the bill polarized the traditionally conservative university since the measure’s introduction at the beginning of the spring term.
The 2012 Princeton Review’s “LGBT-unfriendly” list ranked Texas A&M as the seventh least-friendly LGBT public university nationwide.