Texas A&M senate passes bill allowing students to opt out of funding GLBT center

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The Texas A&M University student government passed a bill on Wednesday night aimed at allowing students to “opt out” of funding the University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center on religious grounds.

The A&M Student Senate passed the bill, entitled “The Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” by a vote of 35-28, according to Bryan-College Station newspaper The Eagle. Less than a day before the vote, the bill had been called the “GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill.”

According to The Eagle, the bill was passed after three hours of emotional testimonies and debate. The crowd of students attending to debate the bill was large enough that an overflow viewing area was set up, and the meeting was postponed so administrators could clear paths to the exit.

The senate website posted “The Religious Funding Exemption Bill” in its final and original versions and provided students with options they could use to voice opinions about the bill, including linking the students to a list of their senate representatives and a comment form.

The bill was originally sponsored by senate member Chris Woolsey, a political science sophomore. The final version was co-sponsored by senate members Chris Russo, an aerospace engineering graduate student; Thomas McNutt, a political science senior; Austin Springer, an industrial engineering freshman; and Cary Cheshire, a political science junior.

A&M student body president John Claybrook, a finance senior, told The Eagle he has not yet decided whether or not he will sign the bill.

“A veto is always on the table,” Claybrook said.

If signed, the legislation will be sent to the University’s president, Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, A&M System chancellor John Sharp, A&M chief financial officer B. J. Crain and the members of the Texas A&M Board of Regents. A University spokesman told The Eagle administrators within A&M’s student affairs and finance divisions would have final say over any changes to the GLBT Resource Center’s budget.