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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bill would give public funds to restrictive clubs

    PHOENIX – Despite a failed attempt by a Phoenix legislator to cripple the bill, the House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow public funding for UA clubs that restrict their membership based on religious faith and sexual orientation.

    SB 1153 would protect clubs at the three state universities that select members based on religious, philosophical or political beliefs. Such clubs currently receive partial funding, but the bill would bar the universities from withholding state money from them.

    The bill would not protect groups that discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex. It would also not protect groups that disseminate messages or materials that are obscene, defamatory, fraudulent or contain fighting words.

    An amendment offered by Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, would have crippled the bill but was defeated on the floor yesterday. Her bill would have allowed a university to refuse funding for clubs that restricted on the basis of religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

    Sinema said her amendment was intentional – she wanted to kill the bill. She argued religious-based clubs have a right to exist, but said they shouldn’t receive public financing.

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona already offers limited funding to UA clubs, including religious organizations, but the measure would allow the clubs to request the same amount of funding offered to UA clubs that do not restrict membership.

    Greg Fahey, UA vice president for government relations, said the UA is opposed to the measure, saying the UA prefers to consider each club individually rather than applying them to a standard established by the state.

    Michael Hunter, a lobbyist for the state Board of Regents, said the bill stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Christian Legal Society against Arizona State University.

    He said the Christian group sued ASU after it was denied funding because of its discrimination practices. It required its members to share certain religious and philosophical beliefs.

    The Arizona Board of Regents also has a policy that prohibits discrimination based on age, ethnicity, gender, disability, color, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.

    Hunter, who said the board of regents opposes the bill, added that the regents’ discrimination policy has been largely ignored since settling with Christian Legal Society last year.

    Hunter said if the bill is approved by the House, he will ask Gov. Janet Napolitano to veto the measure.

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