We thought this was interesting. Christian student groups at Vanderbilt University have been raising quite a stink based on Vanderbilt's "all-comers" anti-discrimination policy that stipulates no student group can discriminate. The university's discrimination statement includes sexual orientation.
The Christian groups argue that "by being forced to allow gay students to participate and run for officer positions, they themselves are being discriminated against for their faith."
In response to Vanderbilt's stance and in an attempt to show their support for religious organizations, Tennessee legislators proposed House Bill 3576/Senate Bill 3597, which would allow religious student groups to discriminate according to the beliefs of their faith.
Governor Bill Haslam has said he'll veto the bill, but maybe not for the reasons that you think. More after the jump.
Gov. Haslam actually disagrees with Vanderbilt's policy, saying that “It is counter-intuitive to make campus organizations open their membership and leadership positions to anyone and everyone, even when potential members philosophically disagree with the core values and beliefs of the organization."
Still, because Tennessee legislators chose to target Vanderbilt, a private university, in this legislation, Haslam felt compelled to veto the bill, stating, “Although I disagree with Vanderbilt’s policy, as someone who strongly believes in limited government, I think it is inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution.”
Vanderbilt has stood by its policy, arguing that because all students pay fees, all students should have equal access to campus resources, and as such, group memberships.
Regarding Gov. Haslam's veto, Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos released as statement saying, “While we respect the governor’s position on Vanderbilt’s policy, we are gratified by his rejection of government intrusion into private institutions and their ability to govern and set policies themselves.”
House Bill 3576/Senate Bill 3597 was originally meant to prevent policies similar to Vanderbilt's at public universities like the University of Tennessee. It was only once it reached the State Senate floor that an amendment was added which would force Vanderbilt to drop their "all-comers" policy or extend it to fraternities and sororities, at which point Gov. Haslam stepped in.
We guess they overstepped.