By Sarah Keneipp, news correspondent
The Student Government Association (SGA) passed the first bill since 1991 concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, etc. (LGBTQA+) issues two weeks ago without the signature of President Eric Tyler, despite a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.
“The 25-year silence of our student government on LGBTQA+ issues was shameful,” Elliot Horen, co-author and Vice President of Student Services within SGA, said. “I wrote this bill to break that silence and start a conversation about what we as a student government and a university could do to better serve the LGBTQA+ community.”
Tyler attributed the lack of legislation to the absence of justice group NU Pride senators in SGA.
The act is an extension of Horen’s work with LGBTQA+ rights. Horen grew up with close family and friends in the LGBTQA+ community and has spoken out for its rights his entire life.
“I think that the Senate passed the bill with an overwhelming majority because they believe, as I do, that the fight for LGBTQA+ equality is a core pillar in the fight for human rights,” he said.
The bill, titled The Northeastern Pride Act of 2016, strives to create safe spaces for LGBTQA+ students at Northeastern. A safe space, as defined by the act, “signals a commitment to LGBTQA+ students to ‘provide support and referrals and serve as a resource to those who approach’ and reinforce the expectation of all ‘to confront homophobic and heterosexist remarks, behaviours and policies.’”
Tyler said that in order to pass a bill in the Senate, a senator proposes legislation and then makes a draft that is given to the executive board to put on the agenda. Once it’s on the agenda, the Senate votes on it, then it goes to the president’s desk for approval. The president can decide to directly veto it, sign it or not sign it. Regardless of what the president does, the bill still passes.
“I didn’t sign the bill because the author did not go through the administration to see if things presented on the bill were feasible,” Tyler said. “I didn’t like the process. I would have approached the LGBTQA+ Resource Center and started a dialogue before presenting it to the Senate.”
In addition to the creation of safe spaces, the bill requests that “NU Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Awareness Week,” that was established in 1990, be renamed to “Northeastern LGBTQA+ Pride Week” and be moved from June to the first week in October. It also proposed that SGA members attend the annual Boston Pride Parade along with senior administrators from university.
Since the bill’s passage, Tyler has spoken to the executive board and will take the case to the administration to discuss further action.
“Legislation can start dialogue and debate,” Horen said. “It can serve as a catalyst to spark future change.”
Freshman chemical engineering major Bradley Priem said he believes the passage of the bill will benefit the Northeastern community.
“I support the passing. Moving the [pride] week from June to October will have an impact on NU students because students are on campus in October,” he said. “I don’t see the passing of the bill having a negative impact … it will bring awareness.”
Photo by Robert Smith