Rainbow Alliance withdraws referendum proposal

Michelle Ma

A referendum to gauge student support for gay rights will not be posted as expected during Spring Quarter after Rainbow Alliance members withdrew the proposal. Members said they thought the issues addressed in the referendum would not be as relevant next quarter.

The referendum was proposed nearly three weeks ago but could not pass because a different referendum scheduled for Winter Quarter was proposed a day before, pushing back the Rainbow Alliance poll to the spring. The other referendum, submitted by Phi Mu Alpha-Sigma Alpha Iota Sen. Gabe Matlin, called for ASG to open its financial information to the public. ASG’s constitution prevents more than one referendum from being posted in one quarter.

Students currently can vote for the financial referendum at ASG’s HereandNow Web site.

A referendum asks the student body to bypass Senate authority and vote to enact a motion. For a referendum to be posted online, at least 200 student signatures must be collected.

According to Rainbow Alliance co-president Ellen Bird, the group is withdrawing the referendum because it was related to current national and campus events that were largely important during Winter Quarter. In mid-January, ASG voted to support Northwestern’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program even though Rainbow Alliance members argued that NROTC openly discriminates against gays and lesbians.

Bird, a Weinberg junior, said she didn’t know a referendum option existed until ASG Treasurer and former Rainbow Alliance senator John J. Hughes III mentioned the option about a week before Bird and co-president Leslie Stewart submitted the petition signatures and referendum proposal.

“John told us we could do this,” Bird said. “He did collect some signatures as well.”

Hughes, a Weinberg senior and former Daily Forum editor, said he told Rainbow Alliance representatives about the referendum option, but his explanation was not extensive.

“I didn’t tell (Bird) too much about it,” Hughes said. “It’s public knowledge this referendum option exists for people who want to have ASG tale a position that Senate has declined to take.”

Rainbow Alliance representatives collected 203 signatures in support of the referendum that sought to gauge student support of gay rights. But waiting until Spring Quarter would weaken the referendum’s efforts, Bird said.

“We didn’t know by next term if it would even be relevant,” Bird said. “We withdrew (the referendum) because it wasn’t going to be passed (this quarter) anyway.”

Hughes said he had no involvement with the decision to withdraw the referendum. But he acknowledged that he provided Rainbow Alliance members space on his Web site so they could post scanned signatures and the referendum proposal online. Members needed the Web site space to quickly submit the referendum before a paper copy could be provided to ASG.

Though Bird said she hasn’t talked at length with Hughes since withdrawing the referendum, she said there are some unanswered questions about Hughes’ motives.

“I know a lot of people have questions to ask John after this,” Bird said. But she added, “We’ve never had any reason to not trust his judgment.”

“I’m not sure about the issue, personally,” she continued. “I would feel very used if I found out he had other motives but he has never given us any reason to think that.”

Whether to allow a similar referendum to be posted next quarter will be up to the newly elected Rainbow Alliance executive board, Bird said.

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected].