SG candidates backtrack after expressing reservations about domestic partner benefits

Samantha Ketterer

In a questionnaire submitted to University Democrats, Executive Alliance candidates Braydon Jones, government senior, and Kimia Dargahi, international relations and global studies senior, wrote a statement about LGBT rights that may have cost them an endorsement, according to UDems officers.

As part of a survey distributed to all student government candidates, Jones, who is running for SG president, and Dargahi, who is running for vice president, said that they had certain concerns about providing domestic partner benefits to University employees.

“Although we fully support the LGBTQ community and encourage their partnerships, our biggest fear of providing domestic partner benefits is that some partners may take advantage and exploit that system,” the statement read. “There needs to be a standardized way to ensure which domestic partners are closer to reaching the parameters of a civil union.”

UDems communications director Ashley Alcantara, international relations and global studies senior, said she felt Jones and Dargahi expressed undue suspicion about domestic partners in a way that was offensive. 

Jones said he and Dargahi submitted a correction to resubmit the specific statement after they noticed problems with their original statement.

“It was a mistake,” Jones said. “We’re not anti-LGBT … Kimia and I are anything but.”

Dargahi said their answer makes it seem they don’t want to give LGBT partners benefits, but she said that is not the case.

“The question in particular was worded in a way that we could only answer about LGBTQ partners, and so we answered it in that way,” Dargahi said. “But the fact of the matter is, whether you are LBGTQ or whether you are straight, you still have the possibility of doing something wrong, of tampering with that system. And that goes for anything — it could be marriage benefits; it could be welfare.”

SG representatives have consistently advocated for LBGT partner benefits for University employees in the past, especially at Invest in Texas, an annual nonpartisan advocacy campaign at the Capitol.   

Wednesday, University Democrats endorsed Plan II junior Xavier Rotnofsky and senior Rohit Mandalapu, a campaign that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu said began as a joke. Alcantara said Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s responses aligned with the group’s ideals on every point, while the other Executive Alliance candidates had some responses that were not as well-received. 

“There were several questions for each of [the candidates] that we kind of cringed,” Alcantara said.

In the questionnaire response, Jones and Dargahi also commented on gender neutral bathrooms on campus.

“If the University budget and space allows for this, we are comfortable with gender neutral or unisex bathrooms on campus,” the questionnaire said. “Most of our housing on campus is gender neutral to begin with, so, when there is a larger university desire for increased housing, we will definitely support it to be gender neutral and accessible.”

Jones said he oversaw the Queer Students Alliance agency for Student Government for the 2013–2014 term. Both he and Dargahi said they are allies to the LGBT community, with values in line with UDems’ criteria.

“This is a huge slap in my face, and I want people to know that,” Jones said.