The LGBT Resource Center at Texas A&M University, like its cousins at the University of Texas and the University of Houston, is an innocuous arm of school bureaucracy that offers an array of resources to gay and transgendered students. There is a guest speaker program, a lending library, networking opportunities, LGBT awareness events, information on counseling, connections to advocacy groups both on- and off-campus. Like we said: innocuous.
But State Rep. Bill Zedler, the Arlington Republican, seems to think these organizations are more akin to San Francisco bathhouses circa 1980. As the Voice noted yesterday, Zedler filed an amendment to the Senate budget that would cut funding for "Gender and Sexuality Centers and Related Student Centers."
He goes on to explain his reasoning: such centers "support, promote or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease."
In a letter to lawmakers, Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox calls Zedler's proposal "mean-spirited and discriminatory."
"This amendment has no public health value," Cox writes. "It does not reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS or any other sexually transmitted disease. It exists for one reason and one reason only: to target college student resource centers simply because the centers provide services to the LGBT community."
Sort of like that bill in the A&M student senate, which is up for debate this evening, that would allow students to opt out of funding LGBT student groups.
Zedler, if he would ever return our calls, would likely argue that rates of HIV and other STDs are disproportionately high among gay men. The CDC says as much. But the CDC also says that infection in gay individuals, just as in straight ones, can be prevented through safe sexual practices and avoidance of drugs, suggesting that the type of education and support provided by campus LGBT resource centers might actually help reduce infection rates. Further undermining Zedler's argument, the agency notes that "homophobia, stigma, and discrimination" elevate the risk of physical and mental health problems.
But Zedler's never been one to let facts or reason get in the way of a ridiculous legislative idea. He's just not very good at getting his fellow lawmakers to sign on. For the sake of gay and transgendered college kids, here's hoping that doesn't change.