When Isabella Chow, a student senator at the University of California, Berkeley, decided to abstain from a pro-LGBT vote and instead explain her Christian views, she knew she’d have to weather a storm. She just didn’t expect that storm to involve a torrent of F-bombs and demands for her resignation.
Her campus political party broke ties with her. Groups she once represented disavowed her. More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling for her resignation because of her “blatantly homophobic and transphobic views.” A club she’d been a member of since freshman year voted her out. Berkeley’s main school newspaper, The Daily Californian, ran an editorial criticizing her, while refusing to publish an op-ed she wrote explaining her decision. The paper said the op-ed “utilized rhetoric that is homophobic and transphobic by the Daily Cal’s standards.”
The storm began brewing when Chow received the agenda a week before the Oct. 31 senate meeting. On the agenda was a resolution opposing President Donald Trump’s proposal to define sex in Title IX as a person’s biological sex. LGBT groups such as the Queer Alliance Resource Center and the Queer Student Union championed this student resolution, which condemned the proposed Title IX changes as “purposefully trans-exclusive” and called for the student senate to “publicly reinforce their support of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students.”
Chow, a 20-year-old junior who’s double-majoring in business and music, wasn’t sure how to vote on this proposal: She agreed that the LGBT community should be protected from discrimination and harassment, but as a Christian, she hesitated over clauses that endorsed groups on campus whose primary mission is to promote the LGBT identity and lifestyle. Where did it cross the line for her? And if she decided she could not in good conscience support the resolution, should she vote no, or abstain? How would she explain her decision to a community that doesn’t share her beliefs?
For Chow, this wasn’t an unexpected dilemma—she’d been having discussions about this issue with pastors and campus ministers for more than a year. She knew what she believed from a Biblical perspective, but wondered how to apply that truth in the complex intersection of faith and politics.
So Chow sent the draft of the resolution to several Christian campus leaders, asking for their thoughts. Eventually, after hearing various opinions, she decided to abstain from the vote. The Sunday before the Oct. 31 vote, she told her political party, Student Action, that she couldn’t endorse the resolution.
Over the next few days, Chow said, “the conversation went to, You either fully support this vote, or you’re out.” She decided to stick to her convictions.
On the night before the Oct. 31 senate meeting, Student Action voted to oust her from the party. It sent her a copy of a press release the group planned to publish. On that draft, the party members wrote that Chow opposed “reproductive health and wellness resources, legal protections for survivors of sexual violence, and community space for vulnerable members of our student body”—a claim Chow told me is “completely false.”
Alarmed that her views might be misrepresented, she prepared a five-paragraph statement explaining why she chose to abstain. The next evening at the senate meeting, she read her statement. It began, “I have said, and will always say, that discrimination against or harassment of any person or people group is never, ever okay.” She condemned people who bully others under the guise of Christianity. In God’s eyes and her own, she said, the LGBT community is “significant, valid, wanted, and loved.”
Her statement continued: “As a Christian, I personally do believe that certain acts and lifestyles conflict with what is good, right, and true. 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.”
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SOURCE: WORLD Magazine, Sophia Lee