Gathered at the footsteps of the Indiana State Capitol Building, attendees of the 2016 NASPA Annual Conference stood in solidarity against the bigotry and intolerance that had been codified through a ‘religious freedom’ bill signed into state law this past year. This law, like those in at least 19 other states, authorizes the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals under the guise of religious liberty. Guided by the principle of inclusion, NASPA and its members were proud to stand up and speak out for the equitable treatment of all people in Indiana, and it has been made clear this week by the states of Georgia and North Carolina that our work is far from over.
Our profession’s values and voice are critically important in today’s policy context. It is through holding the principle of inclusion as paramount that we work to establish campus cultures of acceptance and to challenge those of intolerance. Recent legislative developments continue to call upon our voice and action.
In North Carolina, Governor Pat McRory signed House Bill 2 into law. This bill restricts individuals to use of the public restroom that matches their biological gender. What is more, this bill is a mandate for discrimination by disallowing cities within the state from developing non-discrimination ordinances of their own.
In Georgia, HB757 would disallow ‘adverse action’ to be taken against individuals or organizations in cases where a refusal of service was based on ‘a sincerely held religious belief regarding marriage between a man and a woman’. HB757 has passed both chambers of the state legislature and awaits action by Governor Nathan Deal. If enacted, this legislation will become the latest to legalize discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
As a leading voice for the student affairs profession, one that is committed to the fullest forms of equality and inclusion, NASPA stands firmly against these unacceptable acts of bigotry and intolerance that tarnish our democracy. At our last meeting, NASPA’s Board of Directors passed a policy of its own: Reflecting the values of our profession, our association and its cross-section of thousands of professionals nationwide, NASPA will not host meetings or events in cities that lack a non-discrimination ordinance. I will be reaching out to key elected and appointed officials to convey our position that injustice has no place in our society and that this profession stands in solidarity toward equality and inclusion. As a result of these recent discriminatory legislations, I will also convey to officials in Georgia and North Carolina that NASPA will not hold our events in these states until such a time that their legislative bodies guarantee every member of our community both equal treatment under the law and protection from discrimination.