LGBTQ activists speak to SGA Senate following comments made by senator

Brigid Stakelum speaks to the Senate about her feelings regarding comments made during the discussion on Mar. 27 against the LGBTQ community.

Nicole Ziege

Several LGBTQ student activists spoke to the Student Government Association during its weekly Senate meeting yesterday night regarding the debate during last week’s Senate meeting.

Discussion broke out during the Senate meeting on March 27 when a senator cited his belief in the Bible as the reason why he voted not to fund stoles for the Lavender Recognition Ceremony, which is an event that supports LGBTQ graduates.

While stating his belief in the Bible, Senator Dallas McKinney, who did not attend yesterday’s meeting, read several verses from the book of Romans, some of which stated that those who are “wicked” deserved death.

The ceremony first started in 2015 and was created through an endowment by Patricia Minter, a history professor, and her husband. 

SGA member Brigid Stakelum was the first to give a speech on the issue. Stakelum said she wanted to speak on the speech given by McKinney, though she did not cite McKinney by name, because she found his remarks to be “disturbing,” “malicious” and “just plain hateful.”

Stakelum said she did not want to condemn the speaker. Instead, she said she wanted to use this as a teaching moment about how opinions, particularly about minority groups, have consequences.

“When a person says that another group of people deserves to die, that is not simply a harmless opinion because that is advocating for violence against a group of people based on something they can’t control,” Stakelum said.

Stakelum, who identified herself as bisexual during her speech to the Senate, said sexualities are not opinions, and she said ideas like the one that McKinney expressed can damage a person’s mental health.

“If a person does not recognize our humanity and our identities, they are not disagreeing with us,” Stakelum said. “They are dehumanizing us, which is incredibly dangerous.”

Senator Olivia Simpson gave a presentation on her experience as a bisexual student and a member of the LGBTQ community. She said she wanted to further humanize the LGBTQ community.

“I feel like the sentiments expressed last week say very explicitly that our humanity is not being respected,” Simpson said.

Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair Mark Clark spoke about the emotions that many of the LGBTQ community at WKU felt following the discussion during last week’s meeting.

“We are upset because while trying to pass a harmless funding bill, people in this room demonstrated discrimination towards us,” Clark said, regarding the LGBTQ community and Bill 13-18-S, which funded $250 to purchase stoles for the Lavender Recognition Ceremony. The bill passed in the Senate on March 20 with a vote of 26-5.

Clark said he wanted to make clear why the statements expressed during the debate last week were discriminatory.

“I agree that everyone is allowed to have their own beliefs, faiths and values,” Clark said. “However, your beliefs should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against anyone.”

Senator Jayden Thomas, Jeremy McFarland, head of the Transgender Non-Binary Student Group, and freshman journalism major Adam Murphy also spoke on LGBTQ issues during the Senate meeting.

The Senate also unanimously passed two resolutions and one bill during the meeting.

The first resolution proposed supporting cultural competency training for all faculty and staff at WKU “so that all students may be subject to equal respect and treatment.”

“We just want faculty and staff to be as prepared as possible,” said Clark, who co-authored the bill with Chief of Staff Conner Hounshell and Senators Cassidy Townsend and Kimberly Jefferson.

The second resolution proposed supporting the push back of the withdrawal date at WKU.

“[WKU]’s current withdrawal date currently occurs halfway through the semester, and many students are not aware of their academic standing in a course at this point in the semester,” the resolution stated.

The bill passed in the Senate proposed funding $350 for t-shirts for the volunteers of the Earth Day Festival scheduled April 19 in Centennial Mall.

The Senate also voted on two appointments during its meeting.

Brigid Stakelum was appointed as the new Public Relations Committee Chair following the formal resignation of former chair Will Hurst.

WKU Vietnamese Student Association President Tony Tuan Pham was appointed as senator.

Both appointments were passed unanimously.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.