Bent Alaska and the UA student, staff and faculty group asking the Board of Regents to add sexual orientation to the UA non-discrimination policy both got an unusual Facebook friend request the day after Thanksgiving: from Dave Bronson, of the anti-gay Alaska Family Council.
Why did Bronson ask to friend us three days before the regents meeting at UAA, when it was already public knowledge that the students would make their request again? Did he hope we wouldn't notice that he's an employee of the Family Council? Was he that desperate to know what else we might have planned?
Earlier in the week, the Alaska Family Council - a political lobby group unrelated to the university - sent an email blast titled "Don't Let UA Regents Be Bullied By Homosexual Activists," denouncing the students who are asking for the policy change (and who mostly happen to be heterosexual):
"We have learned that activists in the homosexual movement are attempting to convince the University of Alaska Board of Regents to change the university non-discrimination policy so as to give special recognition to homosexuals. If successful, individuals engaging in homosexual behavior will be afforded the same recognition as members of racial and ethnic minorities."
Of course we want the same recognition as other minority groups. And if we're asking for the same rights, then they aren't special rights, they're equal rights.
The Family Council told their members to email each of the 11 regents and pressure them to reject the students' request.
Jessi Angelette, a UAF student leading the effort, did testify at the meeting, saying in part:
"I am here today before you once again to urge you to amend the current non-discrimination policy and to add it to the next meeting's agenda..."
"The Alaska Family Council has sent out an email stating that you the Regents are being bullied by homosexual extremists. This couldn't be farther from the truth. We are a representation of the students you have sworn an oath to educate and protect. There are thousands of students who call the campuses home while trying to attain their education. Isn't it their right to feel protected from being harassed and discriminated against based on their orientation or their perceived orientation where they call home?"
"After doing research of other college and university non-discrimination policies, we have found that many have sexual orientation included in their polices and some of the schools are in states that do not have laws protecting LBGT citizens, such as Alabama. We have also looked at Tier 4 in the school rankings where UAF is ranked and have found only 1/6 of the schools do not have sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. These schools have shown that even though their cities and states may not have laws to protect the LBGT citizens, they have taken it upon themselves to insure the safety of their students."
UAA students John and Heather Aronno also support the policy change. In The Bully on Campus at UAA, they quote the Family Council argument that this policy would limit their freedom to insult us, then respond to Jim Minnery, who signed the email:
"...Have you been to UAA Jim? The right-to-life club hands out fliers with a revolver aimed at a fetus. We're not in any danger zone that threatens the suppression of free speech, nor is anyone impeding the free exercise of religion… Unless it's hate speech. You're the one asking people who are otherwise in no way affiliated with UAA to flood board member inboxes and voicemail, and if that doesn't work, barge into a board meeting and scream bloody murder. Again."
The students also note that the Council email links to a faux-college video called "Indoctrinate U: Our Education, Their Politics" and the page only lists past screenings, not the upcoming ones (to avoid protests?) Don't be surprised if it shows in Anchorage next year.
So, which group do you think the UA Regents should give priority: UA students and staff, or an unrelated political lobby trying to force their religious bigotry on our public university?
Please take a moment and contact the UA Regents in favor of the student request. If you are a current or former UA student, staff or faculty member, please mention your connection to the university.
And if you moderate a GLBT Alaska Facebook page, please check profiles before you accept friend requests. You never know who will want to be your "friend."