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Pink triangle pressures ASUN
members to vote pro-gay
‘No domestic benefit$policy treats
gays, straightpeople equally
What is a symbol worth?
According to the UNL chapter of
Allies, a nationwide organization promot
ing the advancement of gay rights, the pink
triangle that designates the ASUN office
as a safe space means plenty. It means,
among other things, acceptance and
friendship, a willingness to share ideas.
Most importantly, it means tolerance -
the ability for those within the Association
of Students of the University of Nebraska
to admit gay students into their office and
ensure their safety.
On April 5, by a 21-4 vote, the A^UN
senate passed the bill assigning safe-space
designation to its offices for a second
It was deemed necessary by President
Joel Schafer, along with Allies, that some
important entity on campus stand up and
be counted as a place where gays can be
The bill actually refers to accepting
“any variation from the mainstream,”
whatever that means. Most variants don’t
look for a geometric shape to denote their
safety. Allies has the pink triangle.
This pink triangle can be found on the
window of Schafer’s office. It’s a symbol,
mind you, nothing more, and like all sym
bols, you can read as little or as much as
you want to into it.
Naturally, it means more to gays than it
does me, as I am not a victim of nor fre
quent witness to the blatant discrimination
they must face on a daily basis.
The pink triangle spreads an impor
tance message of tolerance. It should have
a place in our businesses and our homes.
But its existence in the ASUN office is
a shaky proposition at best.
When I read into the symbol and the
ASUN vote that supports its existence
within the governmental confines, con
The pink triangle, at least in this case,
represents a questionable precedent - a
handcuff of sorts - that could force sena
tors and executive candidates into difficult
situations when gay-related bills come
across their desks.
From a philosophical standpoint, I
have problems any time a governmental
organization openly embraces any specific
mantra, good intentioned or not
I see problems with the U.S. dollar bill
having “In God We Trust” on if for exam
ple. Similarly, that ASUN wants a safe
space designation for the office smells of a
political ideology rather than a means of
rubbing out a discriminatory world.
The bill itself acknowledges such con
cerns by stating: “Denoting a place as a
Safe Space or an association as an Ally
Organization is not intended to reflect a
personal, political or religious position on
sexual orientation or on the sexual orienta
tion of the people creating the Safe Space,
but simply meant to define an environment
of personal safety, commitment to diversi
ty and mutual respect”
I do not see it as that simple.
Realistically, there is no way the office
can ensure a safe space, as surely there will
be ASUN senatorial members who not
only disagree with a gay lifestyle, but feel
none too comfortable being around gay
Now consider the many members of
the student body who will walk in and out
of the office. Their personal beliefs will go
much further to determining tire general
tolerance of die room than any symbol
How would the office enforce such a
. if- *%*
policy? Point to the triangle and
Toss the offending member
out? Though Schafer is in favor of
the designation, what if the offend
ing members were future presidents?
Would they be impeached? Their privi
Not likely. More likely is another
In this one, there’s a bill - for exam
ple, the domestic partner benefits bill,
an idea I support. Of course, the most
ASUN can do is lend its support to the
bill, but the scenario in which the sen
ate would not support domestic part
ner benefits must be explored.
What does a safe space symbol
become the very moment the senate
disagrees with gay campus leaders?
Or the very moment the senate does
not pass pro-gay legislation?
You’d hope the symbol stays the
same. Certainly UNUs gay leaders
would understand such a vote. But it’s
also very possible that ASUN could be
considered hypocritical for its actions,
that the symbol no longer applies.
ASUN could be accusal of consist
ing of people who say one thing and do
another - namely, promote intolerance
and an unsafe space for gays. For if
ASUN is a safe space, one could argue,
how can it not support a bill that further
advances the tolerance of gay rights,
which every gay-related legislation is
intended to do?
A symbol, then, becomes a silent
edict of sorts - a subtle and invisible
push in the direction of pro-gay legisla
tion. Because the last thing ASUN
wants to be considered hypocritical and
discriminatory. It only makes sense that
some members might be internally
swayed to vote in another direction just
to avoid such a moniker.
urdnieu, orny m a governmental
utopia, where decisions are made with
in a pragmatic vacuum using a clear
eyed, objective weighing of pros and
cons, does such a threat not exist
Certainly, conscience figures heavily
into any representative’s voting record.
But under no circumstances should
the safe space designation be used as
leverage by anyone, anytime. Even if it
wasn’t used in such fashion, a bad per
ception would still persist.
Try as it might, ASUN cannot
escape scrutiny from those who a 1
believe the symbol guarantees the
slanted agenda described. Those indi- 1■
victuals, like the students who felt u9
slighted in the fetal tissue debate earli- IS
er this year, see themselves as alienat- iH
ed from the student government
because of what they interpret as bad
While I can’t agree with their iffj
moral judgments of ASUN senators |
or gay students on campus, I do join I
than in finding our leaders guilty of bad I
The easy thing to do is accuse these
angered, largely conservative students of 1
being intolerant and foolish and expedi- I
ently banish their views to the bin of for
Certainly, it sends a positive message
to the UNUs gay community, which seems
to be the impetus behind supporting safe
space legislation. It’s also engaging in ide
ological and lifestyle discrimination. In
other words, die very thing pink triangles,
Allies and ASUN are supposed to stand
The ASUN office is not a place of wor
ship, but a structure of p>arliamentary pro
cedure, supposedly open to all ideas, even
those that would squelch gay rights legisla
tion. It’s a place where intolerance and tol
erance could theoretically meet and hash
out their differences.
By hashing out these differences on its
own, ASUN has lost respect with some
and set itself up for a possible Catch-22.
Symbolism, unfortunately, has come at die
expense of others, along with the percep
tion of independence and objectivity so
fundamental to good student government.
Samuel McKewon is a junior political science major and the future Daily Nebraskan opinion editor. |
"No State shall make or
enforce any law which shall
abridge the privileges or immu
nities of citizens of the United
States ... nor deny to any per
son within its jurisdiction the
equal protection of the laws."
So says the 14^
Amendment. Let’s extend that
to the University of Nebraska
Lincoln. “UNL shall not make
any policy which shall abridge
the privileges of its students or
People of a homosexual
orientation, we can assume,
mem equal ucauuciii aiiu laws.
Discriminating against them because of their orientation would
be inconsistent with the above premise. The same goes for het
erosexually oriented people.
Domestic partner benefits are not necessary for equal treat
ment of homosexuals and heterosexuals. Without them, both
groups receive equal benefit treatment.
Neither a homosexual nor a heterosexual can receive benefits
by having a domestic partner.
Whether someone is a woman or a man, black or white, tall or
short, it makes no difference. If he or she is living at home with a
person of the same sex (which is basically what domestic partner
means), that person receives no partner benefits. There’s no dis
Because there’s no discrimination based on sexual orienta
tion, the ideal of promoting the sanctity of marriage can be com
patible with just treatment for homosexuals.
Discrimination based on marital status isn’t the same. Equal
protection under the laws is provided. There are laws about mar
riage, and those laws apply to all equally.
UNL has a policy of no discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation. As demonstrated, the policy on domestic partners (or
rather, lack of policy) is consistent with this broader anti-discrim
I’ve many times observed people trying to draw a correlation
between sexual orientation issues and racial issues. So, let’s com
Laws segregating marriage were once the vogue. On the sur
face, we may feel that such laws are similar to laws prohibiting
A black man could not marry a white woman, no matter how
much they loved each other. They could not marry because of
their skin colors. Terrible? Yes. A legitimate comparison to
domestic partner or marriage benefits for homosexuals? No.
Inequality was involved in the previous example. Not so here.
There, a black person could not marry a white person of the oppo
site sex. A white person could. Each group received unequal treat
ment. Here, anyone may marry a person of the opposite sex and
enjoy whatever financial ramifications may ensue.
“But couldn’t one use the racial analogy to say all people, of
whatever race, were once able to marry only someone of the same
race?” you say, “This would be a valid comparison with all peo
ple, of whatever orientation, being able to marry only someone of
the opposite sex. And both are unjust.” This is a game attempt at
logic, but it fails to hold up.
oiacK people were exciuaea rrom aoing sometnmg wnite
people could do. Homosexual people are not excluded from doing
anything that heterosexual people can do. Any man may marry
any one woman. Any woman may marry any one man.
If someone is homosexual, that person may choose not to
marry, but if that person did choose to marry, nothing could pre
vent it. A homosexual man could even marry a homosexual
I’ve heard people say, “Gays can’t get married, so they need to
have domestic partner benefits available.”
As we’ve just seen, that statement is absolute drivel.
Homosexual people can indeed get married. There’s no “straight
ness test” you have to pass.
If we flip things around, perhaps things will become even
clearer. Let’s say a couple straight men are roommates, and they
decide to get “married” to receive financial benefits.
They go apply for a marriage license. But they won’t get one!
Even if they say they are heterosexual, they will not be allowed to
get married. That’s because homosexual and heterosexual people
are indeed treated equally under the law.
It would not be fun to want to get married to someone of the
same sex and not be able to. I’m glad I don’t have to face that chal
lenge in my life.
Of course homosexuals don’t want to marry people of the
opposite sex. They want to marry people of the same sex. I’m not
addressing all the difficulties that come up when discussing how
to treat homosexuals with justice. I’m simply asserting that what
ever is required for justice, domestic partner benefits need not be
Sexual orientation does not play a role in how our law or our
university treats someone, regardless of that person’s sexual ori
entation. It is absolutely equal.
We can treat homosexuals and heterosexuals as equals while
working to preserve the ideal that marriage is important to socie
ty. Let’s keep domestic partner benefits out of UNL - it’s simply
John Hejkal is a sophomore economics and
English major and a Daily Nebraskan staff writer.
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