The Student Government Association at Montclair State set off a firestorm of controversy Wednesday night when it failed to pass a student bill endorsing same-sex marriage.
The bill, introduced by Frank Pannone, a junior and a legislator of the SGA, failed to gather a two-thirds majority at the SGA’s weekly governance committee meeting on Wednesday.
Overnight, social media immediately exploded with different opinions on the vote, including threats against some SGA legislators. Kristen Bunk, the vice president of the SGA, said in an interview this afternoon that one commenter declared, “They should be hung!” but did not specify whether the remark was on Facebook or Twitter.
Bunk maintained that everybody in student government is safe, but added that she couldn’t believe the situation had become so extreme.
Bunk defended the SGA’s decision, saying that the student government has to represent all points of view. “The SGA isn’t able to pick any political side, and if we were to pick a political side, there would be certain consequences,” she said.
The SGA is considered part government and part corporation. It represents more than 19,000 students on campus and 130 diverse student organizations.
As vice president, Bunk chairs the weekly legislative meeting where the vote came up. She said that Pannone needed more quantitative proof that the majority of students supported the resolution. “One person, with not enough research, cannot speak for 19,000 students,” she said. “The legislators need to see numbers.”
“The SGA supports everybody, every race, orientation, and every culture,” she kept reiterating.
Bunk said that the bill could be reintroduced next week, but emphasized that it would have to be worded differently and be backed up by numbers.
Pannone said that students should take stands on certain issues, be more politically active, and show unity. He did clarify that the majority at the SGA legislative meeting did vote for the resolution. However it lacked the two-thirds majority needed to pass. Pannone added that opposition wasn’t based on the merits of supporting same-sex marriage, but because of uncertainty that the vote reflected student opinion.
“I believe that you cannot represent everyone on campus,” Pannone said. “You need to represent what’s right, and if there is a minority that wants to restrict the rights of another minority, you cannot allow that.”
Leah Stone, president of Femvolution, who brought up the idea of supporting marriage equality in the first place, said she believes the SGA should be more politically involved and take stands on important issues. She pointed out that other SGAs in New Jersey are politically and socially active. “Why can’t SGA at Montclair take a stand?” She said she hopes that MSU students show up to next week’s meeting to make their voices heard. “Students need to recognize their power, and not be afraid.”
New Jersey became the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriage at midnight Sunday, following the State Supreme Court’s decision on Friday not to stay a lower court’s ruling making the marriages legal.
We got a response from the SGA President, George Juzdan: