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A&M and Homosexuality

27 years on

Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

In comparing the institution of "then"to the college of "now" one must mark considerable progress. In 1993 the Corps removed a question about sexual orientation from their application. That same year, A&M saw its first LGBT course; they now exist in the History, English, Sociology and Psychology departments. And in 2007 A&M founded an LGBT Resource Center, one of about 150 in the nation (most of which are on the progressive coasts). Such centers employ a staff whose sole focus is LGBT affairs; they receive office space and work weekdays from eight to five.

But A&M's institutional progress is marred by its attendees' recalcitrance. In Gay Rights and American Law by Daniel Pinello, in which six pages are devoted to Gay Student Services v. Texas A&M, the author judges A&M's past leaders as "homophobes in the ivory tower." He concludes: "The TAMU case manifests the lengths that homophobes — here with Ph.Ds. and governing a public research university — will go to deny lesbian and gay rights…"

Yet when Camden Breeding, the current president of GLBT Aggies, referred to A&M as the "single most homophobic public institution in the country" —citing TPR — he was undoubtedly implicating A&M's students.

Breeding's comments broach a question worth considering: What makes A&M tick?

Common sense asserts two predictors of attitudes on homosexuality: religiosity and conservatism. A&M's particular milieu, then — the "spirit that can ne'er be told" — would be a Petri dish for unfriendliness. But as is often the case with these trends, common sense is of little use. The answers aren't readily evident because A&M is bucking a nationwide trend sans convincing reasons: 62 percent of those 18 to 29 (millennials) are in favor of same-sex marriage, 69 percent say homosexuals should legally be able to adopt children, 71 percent support civil unions and 79 percent want employment discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. A&M briefly aside, if these figures are true, why are some institutions unfriendly to their LGBT students in the first place? Shouldn't the prevalence of these attitudes outweigh a school's religious or conservative leanings?

Here a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), Generations at Odds: The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights, provides intriguing perspective.

Take A&M's conservatism, which often moves in tandem with our Unfriendliness. Prima facie, it's reasonable to see causation. But PRRI's report instead suggests correlation: While only 19 percent of Republican seniors, and less than a third of total Republicans, support same-sex marriage, 49 percent of Republican millennials approve.

It's a minority, but supporters are not alone. Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay, has expressed his support. Cindy and Meghan McCain (wife and daughter of Sen. John McCain) push for its legality as well. And while Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, only supports civil unions, he has warned Republicans to "get the heck out of people's bedrooms." Hardly unfriendly.

Institutionally, the Log Cabin Republicans, a sub-group of the Republican Party, supports same-sex marriage. It was they who challenged the constitutionality of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and won.

New York's decision to support same-sex marriage this summer was impossible without Governor Cuomo's behind-the-curtain political maneuvers. The bill passed a Republican controlled Senate — which at any time could have stopped the vote. While only one Republican supported the measure, this, too, was impossible without several conservative-libertarians in the shadows: Paul Singer, Cliff Asness and Deniel Loeb, all of whom donated money to the cause. Mr. Singer has a gay son, and Messrs Asness and Leob view same-sex marriage as the apotheosis of the conservative ideology. Government, they say, should not make decisions about who can marry.

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