Human Rights are Not an Opinion

Monday, November 2, 2020

Human Rights are Not an Opinion

by Harrison Hamm

As a queer, biracial son of a Filipina immigrant, the rights of myself and those I love are frequently challenged by so-called “political opinions.” This is now happening at LMU.

The “political opinions” I reference are not merely sociopolitical or economic ideologies belonging to either the right or left. Rather, I use the term “political opinions” in quotes to identify violently prejudiced beliefs dangerously justified through political rhetoric (i.e. anti-LGBTQ rights, pro-immigration control). 

Anti-LGBTQ rights or pro-immigration control stances are not simple opinions, devoid of tangible impacts on bodies. In fact, these beliefs intensely impact bodies, lives, and communities of human beings. It is easy to say you support “pro-border security.” It is less easy to say you support “incarcerating children and forcibly sterilizing women.” Through rhetorical coding, the serious and real actions that follow “political opinions” are too often overlooked. We cannot overlook these here on the Bluff, especially now. 

On October 11th, ASLMU Senator Stephanie Martinez was impeached on the grounds that her actions “severely damaged the integrity or authority of ASLMU or the office held by the individual in question.” To further specify the grounds of impeachment, complainant Senator Camille Orozco clarified that the hearing was not a challenge to free speech. 

“I would like to remind everyone that this is not a trial regarding freedom of speech, expression, or political affiliation, as those rights are protected in the United States Constitution, as well as the non-discrimination policy in ASLMU’s constitution,” Orozco said. “This hearing is one regarding conduct which has severely damaged the integrity, or authority of ASLMU or the office held by Senator Martinez.”

Challenging Orozco’s reminder, Senator Martinez expressed her belief that the trial was entirely an issue of free speech. 

Martinez argues, “Despite what was stated, that this is not about free speech or political identity, I argue that this is not the case. The impeachment case against me was brought forward as a result of the Loyolan article and subsequent petition in response to my creation of the students for Trump Instagram page,”

Called to her defense as a witness, Scott Meyers supported her assertion that this was a free speech issue. “I think a lot of what conservatives stand for is freedom of speech, and I believe that this is entirely a free speech issue,” said Meyers. “I see people being affected or harmed by an opinion.” 

And there’s our buzzword: “opinion.” 

So what do we make of this argument? Was Martinez impeached for creating distrust between the very students her role as Senator for Diversity and Inclusion is tasked to protect? Or, was Martinez impeached for her “opinion?”

Veronica Backer-Peral of The Loyolan answers this question in a recent article, questioning the constitutional and ethical integrity of the impeachment.

She argues, Even if you disagree with everything that Senator Martinez believes and stands for, it is evident that she was impeached for tweeting her opinion.” 

While Martinez, Backer-Peral, and other critics of the impeachment claim an “opinion” was under politicized scrutiny, I implore us to question the meaning of “opinion” in this context. The opinion in question is not merely an ideological alignment with right-wing politics. The “opinion” being discussed is not an opinion at all. It is a violent, dangerous, and alienating message to the communities Martinez’s role requires she protect. 

Martinez was not impeached for an “opinion.” She was impeached for damaging the integrity of ASLMU not by openly supporting “pro-immigration control” - but for supporting violence on the lived realities of our most vulnerable students. These marginalized communities, such as queer folks and undocumented immigrants, need a Senator for Diversity and Inclusion who has their best interest in mind. Martinez’s hateful and violent actions directly contradict this duty. 

To retweet “My child will NOT be learning LGBT curriculum” is to deem queer students at LMU as unimportant and not worth hearing or learning from. To retweet this exclusion of LGBT folks is to isolate us, to devalue our lives, and to curate a world without us. That is why Martinez was impeached. We, the student population she is supposed to protect, feel unsafe under her leadership.

To tweet “A close friend of mine works for ICE” is to align herself, and by extension ASLMU, with the endangering of communities of color, the imprisonment of children, and the mutilation of women’s bodies. Martinez’ parents’ legal immigrant status does not absolve her of this. My mother is a legal immigrant too; however, I know that to tweet about a friend in ICE is to support violence against students at LMU.

Martinez was not impeached for her political views. ASLMU’s majority voted to impeach her because she tarnished the integrity and authority of the governance of our student body. As a queer son of an immigrant, I do not trust Martinez. Though she stated that the LGBT community at LMU “would have” her support, I am here to say no.

My human rights are not a political opinion. Neither are the rights of the LMU student body.

Though Martinez was impeached for creating distrust between students and ASLMU, it is imperative that we as a university push back against the insistence on this as an issue of free speech or political affiliation. We can disagree about new logos versus old logos. We cannot disagree about our student communities’ human rights.

This is the opinion of Harrison Hamm, a junior Screenwriting & Women’s and Gender Studies double major from Jackson, TN. 

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