Some University of Arizona law school students are asking that a state lawmaker not speak at their graduation ceremony because of his votes on immigration enforcement and the so-called "birther" bill.
Weeks before state Republican Rep. Ted Vogt, a third-year law student, was appointed to a vacant state House seat in mid-March, his UA law school classmates voted that he serve as speaker when 150 of them graduate in mid-May.
The vote came before he voted affirmatively on the controversial immigration measure authorizing local police to verify a person's legal status and on the so-called "birther" bill that requires a candidate to show documentation before their name can go on the ballot.
Now a rebellion is brewing among students who don't want Vogt speaking at their graduation ceremony at the UA Centennial Hall.
Some are concerned about the message it sends, since so many have relatives or friends of Mexican descent coming to the event.
Jennifer Crutchfield, 26, who is specializing in international law, said while she likes Vogt as a person, she is hoping he will step down and respect the viewpoints of those who are deeply offended by the legislation.
She said some of her classmates have said they will turn their backs on him if he speaks. Accepting him as speaker, she said, would indicate condoning his political views.
"We all have a fear of being associated with such blatantly racist bills," Crutchfield said.
Melanie Rainer, 28, who wants to work in educational advocacy, said she also considers Vogt a friend, but also doesn't want him speaking, calling his votes "disturbing" even as she acknowledges he's a Republican in a red-leaning state.
"I recognize he is just one of many who supported these measures, but we have a unique opportunity to make our voices heard."
Vogt said he had no comment, since he hadn't had a chance to talk to his fellow students.
But Nathaniel Sorenson, 28 and poised to clerk for a judge in Nevada following graduation, said he hopes Vogt speaks.
First of all, he said, Vogt was a clear winner when the class voted for a speaker. Second, he said, Vogt would in all likelihood keep his comments congratulatory and not turn the forum into a political event.
"There are a lot of people I don't agree with out there, but frankly, I don't see how my disagreement with somebody would wreck my graduation."