Erin Faith Page was chosen to represent students at New England College’s commencement this year. The school also chose Senator Kelly Ayotte as a keynote speaker at the event, offering her an honorary degree. The problem? Erin is an out lesbian who believes that Ayotte’s conservative politics make her a terrible choice for the honor.
But New England College, a small, private liberal arts college with around 1,800 students is sticking by its choice. ”The College is pleased to have Senator Ayotte speak at our Commencement Ceremony as we have a rich tradition of welcoming differing viewpoints and celebrating freedom of speech,” NEC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Watman told The Frisky. In case you’re not familiar with Ayotte, she is staunchly anti-gay marriage, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, and most recently voted against the gun control bill. In a petition created by Page, she writes that Ayotte:
“wants to deny women the right to choose, she wants to overturn the rule that requires insurance companies to cover birth control, she wants to deny the gay community the right to marry, she is against gay couples having the right to adopt, she is a supporter of DOMA, She questions human involvement in climate change, and she most recently voted against expanded background checks on people purchasing firearms.”
In response to Ayotte’s selection, Page also made a video, titled “My Alternative Commencement Speech,” in which she details how homophobia has personally impacted her.
So far, Page’s petition has tallied up 176 signatures, and the school is planning on going ahead with Ayotte for their May 18 commencement. Page says she’s honored to represent the student body, but Ayotte’s presence will be a cloud hanging over an otherwise happy day.
“Giving Kelly Ayotte an honorary doctorate degree at our commencement matters to me, because her voting record on LGBT related policies publicly announces a view that we––lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks––are not worthy of equal treatment under United States law,” Page told the Frisky. “I believe that it is my duty as a strong and self-confident lesbian to stand up for those who cannot.”