More than 500 people have signed a petition calling on the university to change the name of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium after its namesake voted against a ban on gay conversion therapy.
The Stony Brook College Democrats, Stony Brook LGBTA, House of Shade and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance posted the petition on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
“If Stony Brook University wishes to be an inclusive community, it must no longer glorify a man who votes for the torture of LGBTQ* youth,” the petition states. “Stony Brook University has a responsibility to protect all of its students, especially those who come from marginalized communities. No student should have the name of their oppressor looming over them at graduation. No student should have to see their oppressor glorified in their home.”
In a previous statement sent to The Statesman, LaValle noted that although he is personally opposed to gay conversion therapy, he chose not to vote for the bill because he felt it would undermine the current legal process for determining medical misconduct, which leaves it up to professionals on state review boards to decide whether or not to ban the medical practice.
LaValle doubled down on this idea in a letter he sent to SBU President, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., which was given to The Statesman by the Republican state senator’s director of communications.
“I voted no on this bill because I strongly believe that trained medical professionals, who across the board have stated that the practice of conversion therapy is archaic and inhumane, should be determining misconduct, not elected officials,” LaValle wrote. “I try to thoughtfully study an issue and base my votes on facts to avoid unintended consequences. While some will use my votes to paint me as anti LGBTQ nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout my tenure, I have been a supporter of civil rights for all groups. That being said our laws have to be workable and satisfy constitutional requirements.”
He then goes on to list several pro-LGBTQ measures he’s supported in the past including the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act as well as legislation that granted equal bereavement leave for same sex couples.
President of the Stony Brook College Democrats and junior political science and English double major, Cecelia Masselli, said that LaValle’s reasoning for voting against the bill is illogical.
“The legislation includes statements by the medical community affirming that gay conversion therapy is extremely harmful so it’s not as if people in the medical profession were excluded,” she said. “The fact that he claims to not support gay conversion therapy doesn’t mean anything if he used his power to protect its existence. This bill had bipartisan support because Republicans and Democrats alike recognized it is 100 percent the responsibility of our elected officials to enact legislation protecting the LGBTQ community from torture.”
University media relations officer Lauren Sheprow responded to requests for comment with the following statement: “The New York State legislature and Governor Cuomo got it right — not only on conversion therapy but also on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA),” she wrote. “That said, we have been advised that Senator LaValle sent a letter to the Statesman outlining his concerns about the conversion therapy bill as drafted, along with his history of legislative support for equality for the LGBTQ* community. It’s an important letter for members of the campus community to read.”
Sheprow did not respond to questions about the petition or whether Stony Brook would consider renaming the stadium.