The Texas House has approved a bill that would allow student organizations at any of the state’s public universities to willfully violate nondiscrimination policies and refuse membership to whomever they choose. According to the amendment from Rep. Matt Krause (R), student organizations deny membership to students according to the following criteria:
(1) who demonstrates opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes; or
(2) whose membership in the organization: (A) would affect in a significant way the organization’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints; or (B) is designed for the subversive intent of undermining the organization’s ability to assemble for its stated purposes.
Hypothetically, this language could be used to discriminate against any student. If a student organization doesn’t like an individual for whatever reason, they could simply claim that he or she doesn’t represent the group’s “viewpoints.” This would allow discrimination based on any characteristic, including even race. Krause’s target, though, is clearly the LGBT community; earlier this year he offered a different bill that would have cut funding for any university that doesn’t allow discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Similar legislation passed in Virginia and Tennessee also considered such measures, though none passed.
These measures all stem from religious organizations’ attempts to discriminate against students because they are gay. Krause’s, like the others, specifically references these religious groups as needing special protections for their freedoms of speech and association. Some conservatives even fear — as is evident in Krause’s language — that gay or atheist students, for example, will infiltrate these groups to compromise their missions. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this has ever happened anywhere, nor is it even a realistic possibility.
Student organizations receive funding from student fees, and thus all students who pay fees should have access to them. These clubs have enough independence to elect student leaders that will uphold the organization’s mission without needing to violate nondiscrimination statements. If Krause’s amendment is passed into law, students at universities will pay for services they then do not have access to. Though he claims in its language that it helps “promote diversity of thought and the marketplace of ideas,” it will have the exact opposite effect.