‘Their viewpoint kills people’: Stanford revokes funding for pro-marriage conference after backlash
PALO ALTO, CA, March 21, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of about 100 homosexual activists at Stanford University have successfully intimidated the Graduate Student Council (GSC) into withdrawing $600 in previously-approved funding for a pro-marriage conference to be held on campus in April.
The university administration also tried to charge the organizers $5,000 for security costs, but backed down amidst public pressure after the organizers accused them of “impos[ing] a tax on free speech.”
The Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) is sponsoring the event, called “Communicating Values: Marriage, Family and the Media.” Featuring prominent pro-family speakers, the event’s goal is “to help university students and young adults to promote the values of marriage, family, and sexual integrity to the broader popular culture.”
The GSC voted 10-2 to withdraw funding for the marriage conference. Still, the conference will go on as planned, using funding from private donors.
The SAS is clear on its website that it “respects the dignity of all persons, irrespective of sexual orientation, and denounces all attempts to use the debate surrounding this conference to promote demeaning and derogatory attitudes toward members of the Stanford LGBT community.” The group states explicitly that anyone who speaks in a disrespectful way about homosexuals during the event will be asked to leave.
At a recent GSC meeting, SAS co-president Judy Romea reminded student leaders that not only is the SAS not “anti-gay,” it stood “in solidarity” with homosexual groups against the controversial Westboro Baptist Church when it held a protest on campus.
But that wasn’t enough for campus gay activist groups, who turned out en masse for the same GSC meeting to demand that funding for the event be pulled.
“Their viewpoint kills people,” Jeffrey Cohen, vice president of GradQ, a homosexual advocacy group for graduate students, told the GSC. “There’s a lot of research published in top psychology journals that have looked at university environments, both positive and negative. An event such as this would be a negative event, [and] in schools that have negative events there is a statistically significant increase in suicide.” He said the last time a pro-marriage speaker visited the campus, someone told him “they wanted to kill themselves.”
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Cohen said he was especially “bothered by the idea that their conference is trying to create better ways to deliver [the pro-marriage] message. ... The idea that they are learning how to deliver their message scares [me].” Cohen suggested SAS cancel its conference and instead hold a joint event with GradQ in which gay activists would have a chance to promote their message too.
Ben Holston, chair of the undergraduate senate, also threw his weight behind the gay groups. “This is an event that hurts the Stanford community,” Holston said. “To express a belief that, for some reason this event is not discriminatory, is completely off-base. This event as it stands, given the speakers, and given that they have said the event is supposed to ‘promote one-man one-woman [marriage],’ which promotes stripping away rights of people in this room, is unacceptable on Stanford’s campus.” He urged the GSC to withdraw its funding for the conference.
But not everyone was comfortable with the idea of stripping student funding for the event based solely on the group’s beliefs. Steven, a second year law student with no connection to SAS, told the GSC he was disturbed by what he saw as the institutional ostracizing of traditional viewpoints.
“It’s worrying that even in an environment like Stanford, holders holding a majority viewpoint [are] running a minority viewpoint out of town,” Steven said. “If people are wrong, bring them to the table, explain to them how they have gone astray; don’t hold them from talking. … You have to be able to tolerate dissent. [It’s] troubling when people cannot tolerate dissent.”
Ben, a graduate student in neuroscience, told the GSC that even though he is homosexual, he believes the SAS should be able to access the same student funding as any other group.
“What bothers [me] the most is that in the name of tolerance, we are silencing and taking away support from a view that we don’t agree with,” Ben said. “These views are out there, we should listen to them. I totally disagree with these people, but we need to hear what they have to say. We need to hear SAS.”
But regardless of students’ concerns about censorship, GSC members came down largely on the side of the gay activists.
Eduardo Gonzalez-Maldonado, who represents the medical school on the GSC, said, “By SAS’s own admission, they are organizing [the] event to promote their values. One value is to promote ‘marriage and sexual integrity.’ When they say marriage between one man and one woman, and if promoting this, does it not imply that whatever formula that does not fit your definition does not have integrity? It does.” Gonzalez-Maldonado added, “This event is not only discriminatory, but badly organized for the purpose it’s serving. It’s supposedly serving to teach people on campus that people who hold anti-marriage-equality views can hold these views and be okay.”
GSC Secretary David Hsu said that regardless of how many assurances SAS gives that they aren’t a hate group, he feels they aren’t being honest with themselves or others. “A lot of times, you may not think the viewpoint you hold is discriminatory, but if that viewpoint spreads, it can have a lot of unintended consequences,” Hsu said. “I would consider this discrimination, I’m really sorry. I do think this is discrimination, and if SAS doesn’t see that, it makes me worried about the tone and nature of this conference.”
To contact the Stanford Graduate Student Council, click here.