Social justice came to the forefront in McConnell 314 this past Sunday evening, as the resolution that was tabled at the Feb. 26 meeting in regard to N.H. House Bill 1264 was passed with one nay.
The resolution, put forth by first-year student senator Bryan Merrill, called for the N.H. House of Representatives to vote against the bill that would provide a religious exemption to businesses that provide marriage-related services. This exemption would allow them to refuse services to people due to a number of different factors, with many seeing this as a plot to discriminate against the LGTBQ community.
The debate was heated, and took nearly an hour and a half before senate ultimately voted on the matter. One of the main opponents to the resolution was A.J. Coukos, UNH student body president. Coukos felt that this was an issue that was more pertinent for special interest groups on campus and that student senate should not be discussing such a divisive issue.
"In terms of our student body, it is not strictly pertinent nor is it necessary for us to address this issue," Coukos said.
With a large presence from the LGTBQ community on campus in attendance, there was plenty of support for this resolution to go through. Many attendees addressed various reasons why this resolution affected all of the UNH campus, a chief concern of the resolution's opponents. The author of the resolution, Merrill, stated he felt it was a bit of a disappointment to have the resolution tabled like it was last week, and explained that he felt that this issue was a rather simple one to vote on.
"To be honest, this is a matter of depriving people their basic civil rights," Merrill said to senate.
It looked for a moment as if the resolution would be stifled again, as student trustee Kurt Eddins motioned for the resolution to be suspended indefinitely. The motion, which needed a second in order to be put up to vote, was supported by Coukos but ultimately failed due to a minimal amount of support from the rest of senate. Eddins' chief reason for calling to suspend the resolution was due to his belief that this was not an issue that student senate should be getting involved with.
"I believe student senate should be working on issues that affect how the University of New Hampshire operates," Eddins said.
Commuter senator Rob Wilson pointed out that it was common practice back in the 1960s and 1970s for student senate to address the State Legislature. The mission statement of student senate was even brought in as a reference point, and it was pointed out that it is the mission of senate to address matters of concern to state officials.
Other outcomes from Sunday's meeting were a vote to digitize all student senate records in an effort to go green; a vote to fund UNH-themed street banners that would also be funded by the UNH Alumni Association; and finally some errors were corrected in a resolution that was voted on last week. All of these resolutions were passed unanimously with little to no debate.
For those interested in attending a student senate meeting, all meetings take place in McConnell 314 at 6 p.m. on Sundays. Due to spring break, there will be not be another meeting until March 25.