USG Senate resolves to oppose non-discrimination bill

FREE SPEECH: HB 2565 would reinforce at the State level students' rights to express religious, political or philosophical viewpoints on University or community college campuses. It would also prohibit colleges from discriminating against students based on religious or political beliefs. (Photo by Beth Easterbrook)

The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government Senate fielded discussion Tuesday about opposing a portion of a state bill that aims to protect college students from discrimination.

House Bill 2565 would ban community colleges and universities from discriminating against students based on religious, political or philosophical viewpoints.

The senate has written a resolution to specifically oppose Section 15-1863B of the bill.

The section states that only members committed to the mission of religious or political organizations can carry out group duties, such as selecting leaders and defining doctrines.

Senate members argue that this section would allow student organizations to discriminate in choosing members and leaders based on religious or political views.

“[HB 2565] reaffirms safeguards that already exist,” USG Vice President of Policy Michael Wong said.

These safeguards include the protection of expression of religious or political viewpoints.

“So it really doesn’t do anything new other than change the way religious and political organizations determine the order of their internal affairs,” Wong said. “So clubs and organizations could choose to exclude people because they don’t feel that that person’s views are in line with the organization’s mission or cause.”

Under current University policies, student clubs and organizations are not allowed to use religious or political views as a means to deny membership or a leadership position. However, if HB 2565 passes, Wong said the state law would trump these policies.

Wong presented a hypothetical example using ASU’s Young Democrats. He said if the bill passes, the leaders of the Young Democrats could choose to exclude members or leaders who weren’t “liberal” enough, whereas under current University policies they would not be able to do so.

“I believe it’s detrimental to the dynamics of student organizations to allow them to set the standards of who can and cannot be a leader in that organization,” Sen. Gabriel Sanchez from the School of Sustainability said.

Sanchez said it is important to him to keep religious and political discrimination out of campus clubs and organizations.

“We feel it’s important to let constituents and clubs know, if passed, how this legislation could affect them,” Sanchez said.

The resolution only opposes one section of the bill, and senate members feel that the rest of the bill is just repetition of policies that are already in place.

“I definitely think it’s important to have non-discrimination policy at a University, but all those protections are already in University code,” Wong said. “And I don’t think there is any reason to reinforce them at the state level.”

The senate will vote on a resolution to oppose the bill next Tuesday.
Reach the reporter at beth.easterbrook@asu.edu