Hundreds protest ASUC Senator Isabella Chow’s anti-LGBTQ+ statements at senate meeting

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Lorenzo dela Cruz/Staff

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More than 300 people attended Wednesday night’s regular ASUC Senate meeting, during which many protested ASUC Senator Isabella Chow’s anti-LGBTQ+ statements, with some calling for her resignation.

Before the meeting began, people gathered on Lower Sproul, carrying a banner that read, “Senator Chow Resign Now.” Student Action, the party that Chow ran with, recently cut ties with her over the anti-LGBTQ+ comments she made during the Oct. 31 meeting. Three senate resolutions were also introduced at Wednesday’s meeting, including two aimed at increasing the populations of marginalized student groups on campus.

The Queer Alliance and Resource Center, or QARC, organized the protest after Chow made anti-LGBTQ+ comments and abstained from supporting a resolution against the Trump administration’s proposed Title IX changes regarding gender at the Oct. 31 meeting. QARC also created a petition calling for Chow’s resignation.

Chow said she could not support these two resolutions because she believes that God created man and woman, that marriage should only be between a man and a woman and that certain lifestyles “conflict with what is good, right and true.”

More than 100 protesters spoke during public comment. Many referenced religion and Christianity, quoting scripture and sharing personal experiences as Christian members of the LGBTQ+ community. Several speakers read anonymous statements from community members, while others highlighted the prevalence of violence against the community. Several speakers invoked Chow’s own words, describing themselves and their identities as “good, right and true.”

“Reconciling the LGBT identity with religion is not a Christian issue — it’s a bigot’s issue,” said campus freshman Kaelyn Schlegel during public comment. “If you truly believe what you claim to, that is one thing, but don’t hide behind Christianity because that would mean twisting the beauty of the Christian religion and making it something it is not.”

During the nearly three hours of public comment, Chow stayed in her seat and watched those commenting.

Three students spoke out in support of Chow during public comment, two of whom identified themselves as Christian and Catholic. Campus sophomore Daniel Frise said calling on Chow to resign is a discriminatory “religious litmus test,” while Berkeley College Republicans’ President Matt Ronnau called Christians and conservatives “marginalized groups” on campus during public comment.

Chow declined to comment for this article but deferred to campus junior Joseph Kim’s public comment statement.

“It hurt to be ridiculed and side-eyed too for what I considered essential to my identity,” Kim said during public comment. “But I know my hurt absolutely pales in comparison to the marginalization and the hurt that many of you have experienced, and so on behalf of the Christian community, I want to say that I’m sorry.”

Also at the meeting, three new senate resolutions were introduced, two of which were targeted at increasing Black student enrollment. One resolution declared the ASUC’s support for repealing Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action from California college campuses, and the second condemned the results of a University of Southern California report that found UC Berkeley to be the worst UC campus for Black students.

ASUC Senator Amir Wright, who is the primary sponsor for both resolutions, said repealing Prop. 209 would be a concrete step toward improving the campus climate for marginalized students.

“I want to make sure the conversation stays alive and that we keep it going,” Wright said. “There was a lot of action and mobilization in the weeks that followed the report, but no one’s been talking about it since then. … The numbers and the score they gave us were so low. We need to do everything we can to increase those numbers.”

Many other campus organizations were also represented during the protest, showing solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. Rabiah Shere, vice president of the Cal Pakistani Students Association, gave public comment in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Newly elected Rent Stabilization Board member Soli Alpert and Housing Advisory Commissioner Matthew Lewis also both gave public comment in support of the community.

Past members of the ASUC also attended the meeting, including 2016-17 senator and UC Berkeley alumnus Alyssa Liu, who noted that it was “absolutely paramount” that senators hold Chow accountable. She added that it was “deeply offensive” that past senators had to attend the meeting to remind current sitting senators to hold their peers accountable.

While QARC External Director Regan Putnam said they could not comment on the future beyond Wednesday’s meeting, they did say the amount of support that the community received at the meeting was amazing.

“Not only are people coming out to support our cause by being in the space, but so many people are volunteering their time to further their civic engagement and are doing it in a manner that is so public,” Putnam said.

Contact Sakura Cannestra and Olivia Nouriani at [email protected].