SGA resolution to condemn RFRA fails


Ashley Sodosky

The LGBTQ office is located in room BW-31 of the Memorial Student Center and is the primary safe zone environment for LGBTQ students.

A resolution to condemn the West Virginia Legislator for the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, a bill that is increasingly under fire for its perceived discrimination of LGBT rights, failed during Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting.

The resolution in question was the topic of a lengthy debate during the meeting, with multiple senators voicing their opinions on the RFRA, how they believed it would affect the state and whether SGA should condemn it.

Marshall’s resolution aimed to condemn the bill as “a clear violation of Marshall University’s anti-discrimination commitment, overall mission statement and goal of providing equal education opportunities for all individuals.” West Virginia University approved a similar resolution Monday.

Sen. Lora Walker was the frontrunner of the resolution, arguing the bill is a response to the legalization of same sex marriage. Walker said the bill uses the guise of religious freedom to be discriminatory towards LGBT individuals.

“This isn’t really a party issue. It’s about people,” Walker said. “In the legislature, the problem is that this may be a federal mandate on one level, but the way it’s interpreted as of lately in all state legislatures is as a reaction to same sex marriage being legalized.”

Sen. Nick Uliana said though he supports marriage equality and gay rights, he believes that the RFRA has the freedoms of businesses in mind.

“The one thing that separates our country from everyone out there is freedom,” Uliana said. “If a business owner is stupid enough to deny someone business based on their sexual orientation, then let them, because that is poor business and it’s well within their right.”

Sen. David Crawley said West Virginia is struggling in the business sector and a law that could potentially allow employers to discriminate against LGBT workers would only do further harm. According to Crawley, Indiana lost $60 million after passing a similar bill.

“If this bill is allowed to pass in the legislature, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Crawley said. “We need to send this message to our legislature that West Virginia is better than this.”

Senate Campus Life and committee chairwoman Rachel Rohrbach said voting against the resolution was in the best interest of the Marshall SGA. The basis of Rohrbach’s argument was senate resolution 73.10, an approved SGA resolution that condemns the West Virginia Legislature’s 10 percent budget cuts on public colleges within the state.

“In my opinion, since 31 states have passed it and they’re just doing it off of federal law, when we say we oppose it, that’s just opening up a big door of problems and that’s not going to get us more funding,” Rohrbach said.

After 25 minutes, president pro tempore, Alex O’Donnell closed the debate. The senate voted against voting by secret ballot and elected to instead vote by roll call. Of the 30 senators present, 11 abstained, 10 voted against the resolution and nine voted for the resolution. The resolution ultimately failed.

Senators, executives and advisors expressed admiration for how the debate was conducted. However, some said they were disappointed in the outcome of the resolution.

“I would like to contact whoever we need to contact about Marshall being voted the most LGBT friendly campus in West Virginia,” Crawley said. “We don’t deserve that.”

Tuesday’s meeting also included the reading of a condolence letter as well as a moment of silence for Emileigh Cooper, a Marshall graduate who was killed in a car accident Friday afternoon.

Additionally, a senate bill was passed to provide funding for MU PROS, as well as a resolution to investigate the termination of the “Capitol Classic” basketball game.

Jared Casto can be contacted at [email protected]