A student senator at UC Berkeley abstained from a vote supporting transgender rights last week, then took a moment to explain her thinking. Now, more than 1,000 people have signed a petition demanding that she resign from student government or face a recall.
Hundreds packed a Senate meeting Wednesday night to insist that she go. On social media, students labeled her a “horrible person” and a “mental imbecile.” Her campus political party severed ties with her. And the Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s storied student newspaper, ran an editorial critical of her statements and refused to publish her written defense.
The uproar began Oct. 31, when the Queer Alliance Resource Center asked the student Senate to pass a bill condemning the Trump administration for considering a legal definition of gender that would require it to match a person’s sex at birth. The proposal would change the federal Title IX civil rights law and potentially remove its protections from 1.4 million trans-gender people, according to a New York Times story last month, based on a leaked memo. At UC Berkeley, the students’ resolution also urged the university to step up support of “trans-gender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students” and the campus groups that help them.
Isabella Chow, 20, abstained.
Reading a five-paragraph statement explaining her decision, Chow told her 18 fellow senators, who all voted for the bill (another was absent), that discrimination “is never, ever OK.” She condemned bullies and bigots. She said she abhorred stereotypes. And she called the LGBT community valid and loved.
“That said,” Chow continued, voting for the bill would compromise her values and force her to promote groups and identities she disagrees with.
“As a Christian, I personally do believe that certain acts and lifestyles conflict with what is good, right and true,” she said. “I believe that God created male and female at the beginning of time, and designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman. For me, to love another person does not mean that I silently concur when, at the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that your choices are right or the best for you as an individual.”