August 11, 1987
You’d think the governor of the state of Arizona has better things to do that badger the president of Arizona State University over a club at the university that has been there 13 years and has a grand total of 55 dues-paying members.
Ah, but wait, these 55 are dues-paying members of a homosexual organization. And it would seem the governor always has time to go after such pockets of unacceptable lifestyle. After the Lesbian and Gay Academic Union came to the attention of Gov. Evan Mecham, he sent a letter to University President J. Russell Nelson, asking why ASU permits a homosexual club to exist on campus.
Nelson responded, sensibly enough, that to ban the group from campus would be a violation of First Amendment rights to organize and assemble. Nelson and the Board of Regents struck a bargain with the LGAU in June after a brief battle in court. Earlier this ycar, the student senate denied the group use of student fees for its campus-based activities. The LGAU sued. The suit was dismissed on a technicality, but the university agreed to have university officials participate in a student government seminar on discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Now Mecham wants to know why the university even allows the LGAU on campus.
So what does all this make Mecham? Is he a homophobe, so disapproving of homosexuals that he is willing to deny them their constitutional rights. Or is he a sort of Arizona everyman, wondering legitimately if things haven’t gone too far when university club status can ‘be given to a group whose private sexual activities, at least, are generally regarded by the mainstream of Arizonans as inappropriate, even perverted’?
Part of the answer may be found in the governor’s response to a statement by a spokeswoman for the LGAU who, during Mecham’s Saturday radio show, argued that the First Amendment guarantees her group the right to organize under freedom of speech and association. Mecham disagreed, saying, “I’m very familiar with the Constitution.”
We would challenge the governor, here and now, to share with us his knowledge, and point to the article or phrase in the U.S. Constitution that he feels backs his claim that such organizations are not protected by the First Amendment.
While we hardly support the morality or lifestyle of homosexuality, we can hardly find sufficient grounds for denial or constitutional rights.
It would seem especially important in the intellectual incubator that the university campus ultimately is, that all forms of expression be allowed, even fostered, in the hope of grasping even the tiniest bit of that thing that the university experience is supposed to pursue knowledge.