Sept. 11 event disliked

Salvation Army's anti-gay policies upset AU groups

Several students from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally community were upset when the Salvation Army was chosen for the University-wide Sept. 11 service project because of the organization's "anti-gay policies."

The Student Confederation, AU's student government and the organizer of the project, was unaware about the Salvation Army's policy of not providing benefits to unmarried partners until two weeks ago, according to SC Vice President Marguerite Meyer. The SC provided alternative volunteer sites for students after the Salvation Army's policy was realized.

"The Salvation Army is well-known for their great work but it never occurred to us to look at their policies," Meyer said.

In 2001, the Salvation Army rescinded a decision that allowed its San Francisco division to offer domestic partner health benefits to unmarried employees with partners. By not upholding San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance, they lost millions of dollars in municipal contracts, which would have been provided as an incentive to uphold the ordinance.

Chris Salazar, president of the Class of 2005, was upset when he was asked to co-sponsor the service project a few of weeks ago.

"I said that I wouldn't do it, not because I am gay but because I was acting in the best interest of my class," Salazar said. "I am not trying to be anti-Sept. 11 community service project, but everyone should be coming together, straight and gay, and be represented."

According to Salazar, he called up the Class of 2004 and College Democrats as well as other faculty members and the Community Service Office about not supporting the event.

The College Democrats decided to join the Class of 2005 in not sponsoring the event.

"The primary venue conflicted with the ideology of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, something the [AU] College Democrats believe strongly in," said President of College Democrats Noah Black.

AU Queers and Allies President Christine Neejer also addressed the issue.

"Originally, I wasn't going to make a big deal about the incident, but a couple of people came to us upset," Neejer said. "People were upset, who wanted to participate in the project, but what cost do they have to pay to participate in something that is really supposed to bring unity?"

Most campus groups did not know about the Salvation Army's stance, according to Salazar.

"It would have been a bold political statement if organizations like the Class of 2004 had stepped down from sponsoring the event," Salazar said. "But it's understandable ... since it was for community service."

After Salazar approached Meyer the SC provided alternative volunteer opportunities at organizations that the SC says are non-discriminatory. These include helping children from 3 to 8 p.m. today at Hopkins Branch of the Boys and Girls Club in Southeast D.C. and beautification projects from 1 to 8 p.m. today with the Washington Parks and People.

"I hope people will see that some decisions are not only limited to just being racially sensitive or religious sensitive but also gender sensitive and sexual orientation sensitive," Salazar said.

Salazar would like event planners to be more cautious of the values of the organizations they work with in the future.

"Not everyone needs to be an activist for every issue but everyone should at least be aware ," Salzar said.

The SC, Class of 2004, College Republicans, Alpha Phi Omega, School of International Service, X-Cetera and University Chaplain's Office sponsor the Salvation Army project to remember victims of Sept. 11.

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