AI reverses policy banning homosexuals

By Galvin Kennedy

When NIU’s Amnesty International banned homosexual membership to protest the conflict bewtween ROTC policy and NIU’s constitution, it did not anticipate objection by the regional office in Chicago.

Donna Lundstrum, former AI chapter president, last April said the group amended its constitution to ban homosexuals from being voting members “until NIU obeys its constitution,” which prohibits sexual discrimination.

Lundstrum, however, was unaware at the time that the regional office in Chicago would not approve of the action.

“We have re-amended the constitution (to allow homosexuals) not because we are going back on what we belive, but because the regional office in Chicago has requested that we should,” said Leeanne Frydrychowicz, the group’s new president.

“The regional office fears that our actions may be taken out of context by someone not familiar with the local situation,” Frydrychowicz said. “Everyone knows it’s a lot easier to ruin a good reputation than it is to build one.

“I’m glad to see that the Philosophy Forum has not changed their policy,” Frydrychowicz said, refering to the first organization that amended its constitution to ban homosexuals in protest.

Judy Hatcher, spokesman for the AI regional office in Chicago, said “although we sympathize with the motivation behind the local chapter’s actions, we try to stick to our mandate.”

AI’s three-point mandate is to help free prisoners of conscience, ensure fair and prompt trials for political prisoners and end torture and executions.

Controversies like the one at NIU involving ROTC policy are outside the jurisdiction of AI because of its political nature, “so I can’t encourage individual chapters to take on those types of activities under the name of Amnesty International,” Hatcher said.

“I think it is important to fight against discrimination and I strongly encourage them (NIU’s AI members) to take other avenues,” she said.

The protests stemmed from last semester’s clash between ROTC and NIU, based on ROTC’s policy of not awarding officer commissions to homosexuals. ROTC has two years to amend its policies or leave campus, as determined by the University Council.