COMSTOCK: Avoiding opinions you don’t want to hear

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Tuesday’s primaries elected Justice Rebecca Bradley to a ten-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Marquette University’s student voters likely had little idea of the implications the Supreme Court race had in terms of their alma mater, but Justice Bradley’s recently uncovered Marquette Tribune columns shed an unfavorable light on the university.

Bradley’s 1992 columns written in her undergraduate years at Marquette condemn same-sex marriage, support for AIDS victims and abortion through language that would be considered caustic by modern standards. She specifically decries the election of Bill Clinton and writes that Clinton “supports the Freedom of Choice Act, which will allow women to mutilate and dismember their helpless children through their ninth month of pregnancy. Anyone who could consciously vote for such a murderer is obviously immoral.”  Her sense of disdain for the LGBT community is also particularly striking: “”I will certainly characterize whomever transferred their infected blood (to a transfusion recipient) a homosexual or drug-addicted degenerate and a murderer.”

Not surprisingly, liberal political groups backing Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg found the discovery of these columns invaluable. Theoretically, those elected to positions in the court should be impartial, but anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to recent events in the courts knows that is wishful thinking. Bradley subsequently expressed regret for her columns and insisted her words in 1992 are not indicative of her views today.

Still many political groups were not so forgiving of the paper trail and called for her resignation. Although apologetic, Bradley and her campaign consider the mass circulation of columns she wrote twenty years ago to be another political witch hunt and one of many media attempts to assassinate her character.

Marquette College Democrats called for a formal disassociation from Justice Rebecca Bradley, claiming Bradley’s “hate speech” clashes with the university’s values and image. However, they’ve encountered trouble garnering support for its petition, as many view their request to be politicizing the issue. Given Bradley’s election on Tuesday, Marquette’s formal condemnation and disassociation from Bradley would likely be interpreted as a political statement. In light of recent events involving free speech at Marquette, I’m not surprised the administration wants nothing to do with this.

The College Democrats claim it’s not asking Marquette to go blue or red on the issue, but rather ask for the disassociation from a social justice standpoint. The petition reads, “despite the political nature of our organization, we are not seeking a partisan response from the university. We are simply asking the university to reaffirm its commitment to its mission of ‘seeking to become a more diverse and inclusive academic community dedicated to the promotion of justice.’” However, they are asking for Marquette’s political stance – indirectly.

The reality is that today’s Republican party wants to overturn marriage equality, end mandatory birth control coverage and outlaw abortion altogether. The recently proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) would protect those who opposed same-sex marriage on the basis of religious discrimination.  Bradley’s original stances have not gone away, the proponents have just changed their vernacular and political tactics. So yes, Marquette Democrats, you are inadvertently asking the administration to “take a side.” This is the GOP “party platform.”

But here’s another prime example of students today avoiding opinions they don’t want to hear. Do I agree with Bradley? No. And I think I would be hard-pressed to find many from either side of the political spectrum that would be willing to stand behind her exact words. But like any controversial opinion, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. If you do read it, learn from it. Marquette’s image today is not compromised by one student’s opinion twenty years ago.

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