Nondiscrimination clause proposed for SEMO student constitution voted down

Monday, April 1, 2013

A proposal to amend the Southeast Missouri State University student constitution to add a nondiscrimination clause on the basis of sexual orientation was voted down by the Student Government Association senate.

Sen. Nick Maddock said he recommended the change because he has seen lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students called derogatory names.

"I see it as a huge issue that needs to be addressed," Maddock said. "This clause in the student constitution is the only discrimination policy that our students really have; therefore, I think that would be the best way to approach this issue and say from the student government body, 'Hey, to our LGBT students, we're here for you. We are behind you.'"

The student constitution states "the right to vote and to freely participate in student organization elections shall not be denied on account of race, religion, creed, sex, or national origin."

Maddock recommended to add "or sexual orientation" to the clause.

When brought to the student government meeting March 11, the senate voted against Maddock's recommendation by a 29-8 margin. This meant the SGA decided the clause should not be voted on by students.

According to the student constitution, in order for an amendment to be proposed, two-thirds of the senate must vote in favor of it. Once it is passed by the senate, in order for it to become part of the constitution, one-tenth of the student population must vote on it and two-thirds of that vote must be in favor of the amendment.

"No one disagrees with the content aspect of it," Greg Felock, SGA vice president, said before the vote. "It's just really the procedural side to it that is a little scary and shocking so far."

The constitution never has been amended and it mimics the Missouri constitution, Felock said.

"Other universities all around Missouri have made this exact same clause, so for them to say that we need to abide by this because it's politically correct, that's just illogical," Maddock said. "There are a lot of universities who have passed that."

The University of Missouri and the University of Central Missouri include in their student constitutions a clause addressing sexual-orientation discrimination.

There were other arguments made against proposing the amendment. Sen. Dylan Lloyd said he believed there was no reason for it to be changed.

"First, the Americans of the United States, no matter what your sexual orientation is, get to participate in the government by voting and/or running for office," Lloyd said. "The United States constitution does not say anything about sexual orientation ­-- and neither does Missouri's or Southeast's. Therefore, if there are no issues on higher levels of government, then why should we change it? Second, I talked to some of my constituents and they were not comfortable with adding this. At the end of the day, I am here to be their voice, so I voted 'no.'"

There were other issues about whether Maddock's clause was the right way to word the amendment.

"It refers specifically to the right to vote and to freely participate in student organization elections, so it's not necessarily an all-encompassing nondiscrimination clause," Felock said before the vote. "There's a lot of discussion whether or not it's necessary or in a sense might be kind of repetitive because you can take different parts of it different ways. You know when you're talking about 'creed' that could mean a lot of different things."

Some senators wanted to change the clause to make it more general. Others made the point that other specifics would need to be added to the clause such as no discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities.

"Some people said, 'Well, why not eliminate all and just say any type of discrimination,' which hey, like, I think that would be a small step up but that doesn't entrust the bigger issue of what I'm trying to address, which is the discrimination of LGBT individuals here," Maddock said.

Lloyd and Felock said they have not been told of any discrimination because of sexual orientation on campus through student organizations.

"I do not believe that we have a big problem with discrimination against sexual orientation when it comes to clubs or organizations," Lloyd said. "I have not heard anyone complain about there being any discrimination toward those about their sexual orientation, and I have a few friends who are very active on campus who haven't said a word to me about discrimination in their organization."

Maddock disagreed and thinks SGA should be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of waiting for a problem to occur or worsen, he wants to take care of the problem now by amending the constitution.

Pertinent address:

1 University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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