Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.02.15
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to email@example.com
1. The Oracle (University of South Florida) - New scholarship supports LGBT community
2. Chronicle of Higher Ed - Judge Says Colleges' Bias Policy Does Not Impede Rights of Christian Student Groups
3. The GW Hatchet (Washington, DC) - 'Don't Ask' hits home for NROTC
4. Colorado Daily (Boulder, CO) - Kissing for a cause: CU students planning mass make-out on Friday
5. The Brown and White (Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA) - Students talk transgender issues
6. The University Daily Kansan - Student Housing sponsors lecture on LGBT issues
7. The Argonaut (University of Idaho, Moscow, ID) - University raises gay marriage awareness
8. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian (University of Massachusetts) - FEATURE: Present for Change
9. The Brandeis Hoot (Waltham, MA) - Writer considers intersection between Judaism and sexuality
10. Yale Daily News (New Haven, CT) - Housing may go gender-neutral
11. Colorado Daily (Boulder, CO) - Two minutes of affection: CU students make out to promote same-sex tolerance
12. The Rider News (Lawrenceville, NJ) - WCC Student Sings: Case for Proposition 8 full of holes
13. Daily Evergreen (Pullman, WA) - WSU students celebrate Freedom to Marry Day
1. The Oracle, February 9, 2009
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620
New scholarship supports LGBT community
By Jenna Withrow
The Alumni Association has developed the first endowed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) scholarship at USF.
The idea started a year and a half ago as a $1,000 fund and is now a $29,000 endowment with a $20,000 donation from Dr. Karen Berkman, chair of USF’s President’s Committee on Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (CISOGI).
“We felt that this was something that we wanted to be at USF forever, and the only way to make that happen was to get an endowed scholarship fund,” Berkman said.
For a scholarship to become endowed, $25,000 must be raised. Once that amount is reached, the scholarship is essentially permanent and operates off of interest, she said.
USF is now among the few public universities in Florida to offer such a scholarship, said Merrell Dickey, Alumni Association director of chapter and corporate relations.
“It supports the president’s initiatives to make USF a welcoming, inclusive community that is globally known and recognized for that — which then makes us as a university prestigious around the world,” Dickey said. “Secondly, I think it validates the importance of the LGBT community in the area.”
The scholarship is inclusive and available to all USF students and incoming freshmen, regardless of sexual orientation. Applicants must complete the USF General Foundation Scholarship Application, have a 3.0 grade point average and complete a personal statement indicating their contributions to the LGBT community.
“The scholarship is for students who have done things to contribute to the welcoming climate of the LGBT community, either here on campus or within the community,” said LaToya Dowdell, director of campus and student relations for the Alumni Association.
Possible contributions include participating in activities that welcome campus diversity, performing research or writing a paper pertaining to the LGBT community, Dowdell said.
The scholarship is worth $1,000, with installments of $500 in the fall and $500 in the spring. A committee of USF alumni will choose the recipient.
The scholarship will be awarded at the 5th Annual Spring USF LGBT Gala event March 24. The reception, as well as the scholarship, is a collaboration of CISOGI, the USF People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality (P.R.I.D.E) Alliance, Safe Zone and the Alumni Association.
The gala event will feature guest speaker Betty Castor, former USF president. It will also include a performance by Crescendo — the Tampa Bay Women’s Chorus.
The scholarship is currently a one-time scholarship, but Dickey said he hopes that as awareness of the LGBT scholarship increases so will the donations.
Once privately endowed scholarships reach $100,000, the University can apply to receive 50 percent matching funds from the state, Dickey said.
He said the scholarship is a chance for people to invest in someone else.
“That’s what we’re doing through scholarships — we’re helping someone who maybe was kicked out of their house for being honest of who they are,” he said. “They were ostracized, so we validate them. What a wonderful thing to be able to do ------— to say ‘you’re worth it.’”
For more information on the Alumni Association, visit its Web site at usfalumni.net.
2. The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 9, 2009
1255 Twenty-Third Street, N.W., Seventh Floor, Washington, D.C. 20037
Judge Says Colleges' Bias Policy Does Not Impede Rights of Christian Student Groups
By Beckie Supiano
A federal judge ruled on Friday that a nondiscrimination policy at San Diego State University and California State University at Long Beach does not infringe upon the First Amendment rights of Christian student groups, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Every Nation Campus Ministries, a recognized student group eligible for money and privileges, established a new constitution in 2005 that required its members to be Christians and barred people “who believe they are innately homosexual, or advocate the viewpoint that homosexuality is a natural part of God’s created order.”
The group was denied official recognition that year because its new membership requirements violated the institutions’ nondiscrimination policy, and Every Nation Campus Ministries sued. Other groups with similar membership policies were denied recognition at both universities.
The court determined that, as student groups are a “limited public forum” to which the state may restrict access as long as the restrictions are reasonable and viewpoint-neutral, the universities did not violate the groups’ rights. —Beckie Supiano
3. The GW Hatchet, February 12, 2009
2140 G Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037
'Don't Ask' hits home for NROTC
By Lauren French
Freshman Todd Belok has wanted to be a Naval officer since his early teens.
"I want to be an officer because I feel that it shows character," Belok said. "You are paying back your country."
But as he found out this December after joining GW's Navy ROTC program, he may never accomplish his goal - now that the Navy knows he is gay.
Before he arrived in Foggy Bottom last fall, he enrolled in the ROTC program and arrived early to attend a pre-term training session in Quantico, Va. But after two of his fellow NROTC members saw him kiss another male at a party, Belok was officially dismissed from the program in December, according to a disciplinary report provided to The Hatchet.
Despite a University policy against discrimination, the NROTC program dismissed Belok for homosexual behavior - forbidden for active members by the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy - after a two-month review.
In the final report, Capt. Brian Gawne wrote that it was a difficult decision for the board to dismiss Belok, who was already a high-achieving member of NROTC.
"While this unit could easily avoid potential scrutiny, publicity and inquiry if I simply overruled the board and recommended retention, such an act would be purely self-serving and neglectful of my responsibility to uphold the policies instituted by our civilian leadership," Gawne wrote. "I recommend [Midshipman] Belok be dismissed from The George Washington University NROTC on the basis of homosexuality in accordance with [NROTC policy]."
The law mandating the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was passed by Congress during the Clinton administration to protect service members living in close quarters from uncomfortable situations. While the policy does not ban homosexuals from joining the military, it does ban all "homosexual conduct," according to the Department of Defense Policy on Homosexual Conduct. More than 11,000 service members have been dismissed from the military as a result of this policy since 1993, according to The New York Times.
The University's policy, however, states any group using its trademarks will not "discriminate against any persons or groups based on age, ancestry, belief, color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status or other illegal basis, or in any other way that would be a violation of University antidiscrimination policies."
University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said, although the policies clash, the University supports and has upheld the federal law.
"These are very, very sensitive, delicate issues," Schario said. "Unfortunately the military can discriminate based on sexual orientation."
Federal law says that any federal money a university receives, for anything from financial aid to research grants, can be withdrawn if the school does not comply with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or denies ROTC the right to recruit on campus.
'You are supposed to say something'
On September 13, 2008, Belok attended a party at Beta Theta Pi, a fraternity which he later pledged, when two other midshipmen [MIDN], Dave Perry and Squad Leader Nick Trimis, said they saw Belok kiss another male on the lips.
"In the basement of Beta Theta Pi, MIDN Belok introduced me to another male, who he referred to as his 'special friend,' " Trimis wrote in the Performance Review Board report. "Within five minutes of this introduction, I witnessed MIDN Belok kissing this individual on the lips. I decided I needed to leave after this encounter."
Perry and Trimis said they consulted with each other and other midshipmen who witnessed the event to decide the appropriate course of action.
"We wanted to keep it as low-profile as possible," said Perry, a freshman, in an interview. "We wanted to protect his privacy, that's why we went past the students."
Bypassing the standard chain of command within the unit, Perry and Trimis went directly to Lt. Kathleen Meeuf, an assistant professor of naval science. Meeuf began the dismissal process by informing her superiors of the infraction.
Both Trimis and Perry said they felt they were obligated to inform their superiors.
"It was drilled into me for a good 13 weeks that if someone does something wrong you are supposed to say something," said Trimis, who enlisted in the Marines before coming to GW to finish his education. "There are certain rules in the military and when you tell, this is the way it plays out, but it is unfortunate."
Gawne, who oversees the NROTC program at GW and made the recommendation to dismiss Belok, declined to comment on Belok's case specifically. NROTC students directly reporting on their peers in the program is rare, and Gawne said that when it happens, it is a difficult situation for everyone involved.
"We expect students to do the right thing," Gawne said. "If a student is breaking regulations, well, that is one of the hardest things."
Perry said it was a difficult decision to report Belok but that in the end, he felt it was justified.
"I am not homophobic, I do not dislike gays," Perry said. "It was just an uncomfortable situation for other midshipmen."
Belok said the unit gave him two options following the report.
"They told me I could drop out or do a Performance Review Board, a PRB, which is a nonjudicial review board," Belok said. "I decided to do the PRB so I could try to fight it."
While Belok was going through the dismissal process, which took more than two months, he said members of the units expressed their disappointment that he was forced to leave the unit.
"Todd was one of the most qualified midshipmen in the year," said one midshipman who wished to remain anonymous. "He is completely motivated in finding some way to serve this nation."
The Hatchet contacted other members of NROTC but they declined to comment, saying the unit asked them not to.
Fighting to serve
Belok does not deny he is a homosexual, nor does he deny he broke the federal law by "telling" his fellow midshipmen he was gay. He said he hopes the policy will change so he can still serve in the Navy as an officer, a dream he had harbored since he was a young teenager.
"My grandfather served in World War II and I have known I wanted to serve since early high school," Belok said. "I think everyone owes it to the country you grew up in to give back."
Belok is unable to rejoin any NROTC units and most likely will not be accepted into any Officer Training Schools if he applied after graduation because officials will have access to his records and the file that details his dismissal from GW's NROTC program.
Perry said he now regrets reporting Belok.
"I was hoping he would just leave so he could go to OTS later," Perry said. "I wish I had just let it go so Belok would not have gotten kicked out."
Belok said he received advice from lawyers at the Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network but has decided against legal action. Instead, Belok is now working with the SLDN to petition Congress and the Obama administration to change the law that got him expelled. He hopes his efforts will allow himself and other gay members to serve.
"I definitely still will be in the Navy," Belok said. "It is just a matter of when the policy changes." n
Sarah Scire contributed to this report.
4. Colorado Daily, February 11, 2009
1048 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302
Kissing for a cause: CU students planning mass make-out on Friday
Event designed to raise awareness about queer displays of affection
By Lance Vaillancourt
BOULDER, Colo. — Most Friday mornings, the fountain area outside the University Memorial Center serves as hub for any number of run-of-the-mill student activities, from studying and chatting with friends to just passing through on the way to class.
Just before noon this Friday, however, the University of Colorado’s Dalton Trumbo Fountain will play host to something a bit steamier: a mass make-out session.
Student organizers say the demonstration, entitled “Make Out Stake Out,” will give gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students — along with their straight allies — an avenue to playfully challenge societal norms about public displays of affection.
If all goes as planned, at precisely 11:53 a.m., a “flash mob” of student couples of varying sexual orientations suddenly will appear at the UMC fountain square, make out for two minutes — and then disperse.
“We’re trying to remove the stigma that surrounds same-sex affection in public and, more importantly, the misconception that if you are queer and you are expressing affection in public that you are rubbing it in people’s faces,” junior Spencer Watson said.
Watson, who helped organize the event, also acts as secretary for the CU student group Queer Initiative, which pursues campus-wide tolerance and acceptance of the queer community.
“I hope that people passing by see the different-gendered couples and the same-sex couples with a certain togetherness about them,” said sophomore Blair Iaffaldano, a Queer Initiative officer. “I hope it normalizes it so that people don’t get freaked out when they see two guys or two girls kissing.”
Since organizers posted the event on Facebook less than a week ago, “Make Out Stake Out” already has received a wide variety of student reaction.
“Anyone making out en masse to ‘make a point’ shows disrespect towards the group they are representing, as well as anyone around them,” said sophomore Brandon Labadie, who posted similar opinions on the event’s Facebook page.
“The people participating in this event, in my opinion, are reinforcing negative stereotypes about the queer community and it’s unfortunate that people who do not wish to participate will be represented this way,” Labadie added.
Other students, such as sophomore Kelly Pauken, who intends to participate in the event with her girlfriend, were more than excited to join in.
“I got an invite on Facebook and thought it was awesome,” Pauken said. “I also think it’s great to have a bunch of gay people make out in one place.
“It’s a statement that their kissing is just as natural as anybody else kissing.”
5. The Brown and White, February 13, 2009
33 Coppee Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015
Students talk transgender issues
By Anya Bingler
Men and women gathered Tuesday at the Women's Center to discuss issues surrounding transgendered people and their role in "The Vagina Monologues," as part of V-Week.
The event, sponsored by Spectrum, centered on topics including stereotypes, job discrimination, gender identity, sexual violence and gender re-assignment surgery.
Because some sensitive topics were discussed, a box was passed around for participants to write anonymous questions throughout the meeting.
Career Services employee and Lehigh alumna Chris Diggs, '07, said she thought this was an important discussion to have at Lehigh.
"I am glad that we have this discussion as part of V-Week because I feel like we don't talk about this enough in general, and especially at Lehigh," she said.
Diggs has been involved with "The Vagina Monologues" at Lehigh for five years.
She directed the production in 2005, which was the first year the transgender monologue was added to the Lehigh performance.
The transgender monologue was written by Eve Ensler, author and creator of "The Vagina Monologues." She added it to the program in 2004.
It is largely based on five stories of transgender women, male to female, ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s. The monologue begins with the moment when a male or female realizes that he or she was born into the wrong body.
It continues through the physical transition of becoming the opposite gender.
The monologue also touches on the issue of sexual violence associated with being transgendered, as well as the joys in discovering one's true gender identity.
Chelsea Crisafulli, '09, will perform the transgender monologue in this weekend's performance. She said she thought the timing for this monologue is just right.
"This is a good year for this to be performed, especially because it [being transgendered] is in the media so much right now, like the pregnant man, Thomas Beatie, and the transgender cast member from 'The Real World,'" Crisafulli said.
This monologue and the discussion were held in the hopes of raising awareness among the campus community and uncovering new topics that are not usually addressed or discussed around Lehigh.
"This is a really good discussion if you want an outlet to find out new information on a topic that I think there is a lack of focus on," Crisafulli said.
The discussion was one of many events kicking off V-Week, which will culminate with "The Vagina Monologues" performance on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in Packard Auditorium.
Another V-Week event was a Teach-In discussion held Wednesday about the treatment of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with anthropology professor Bruce Whitehouse.
This topic is the 2009 spotlight campaign of "The Vagina Monologues."
By bringing "The Vagina Monologues" to Lehigh and implementing V-Week around campus, the university, faculty and students are making a point to raise awareness about vital gender issues.
Rita Jones, director of the Women's Center, said she thought it is the passion and dedication of Lehigh students that makes "The Vagina Monologues" and V-Week such important events on campus.
"Lehigh University has a very active, engaged and committed group of women and men who are driven to see an end to violence against women," Jones said. "As a result, 'The Vagina Monologues' remain important to the campus."
6. The University Daily Kansan, February 12, 2009
111 Stauffer-Flint Hall, 1435 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045
Student Housing sponsors lecture on LGBT issues
By Kayla Regan
The Department of Student Housing often invites authorities on topics such as fire prevention, campus safety and stress management to come talk to students.
Today, the department will host a lecture on a very different topic: homosexuality.
John Corvino will give his lecture, “What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?” at 7 p.m. in the Hashinger Hall theater. Corvino, a columnist for 365gay.com, said he hoped students from all backgrounds and opinions would attend the lecture. Much of the speech, Corvino said, was devoted to answering questions or concerns people had with homosexuality.
“This is an issue that, despite tremendous increases in visibility, people still have a hard time discussing,” Corvino said. “I think it will give KU students an opportunity to look at the issue with greater focus and rigor, and thus better understand the topic.”
By openly discussing homosexuality, Corvino said people from any background would gain a better understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. Corvino, who began lecturing on the subject in the early 1990s, said the speech was an in-depth but humorous response to some of the common arguments against homosexuality. He said his lecture addressed issues such as supporting the LGBT community and gay marriage.
“The lecture addresses that difficulty, not by sidestepping the moral questions, but by confronting them,” Corvino said.
Ryan Campbell, Olathe senior and Queers and Allies president, said the group was helping Student Housing present Corvino’s lecture. Campbell, host of KJHK’s Dick and Dyke show, said he used his program to help spread the word about the lecture. He said his program, like Corvino’s speech, operated on the same belief that open conversations facilitated greater understanding of the LGBT community.
“When you reach out to an audience that isn’t familiar with the concept of homosexuality, if someone is willing to openly discuss the topic, you’re much more able to change minds,” Campbell said.
Rick Lofgren, assistant complex director for Lewis Hall, said students from all backgrounds and sexual orientations lived together in the dorms. Lofgren said Housing was only furthering its mission statement by adding to the diversity of the University and helping students become more socially-educated.
“We are not the experts, so we wanted to bring in the expert,” Lofgren said. “What’s cool about Corvino is he actually encourages students to have a different understanding.”
Corvino’s lecture is scheduled during Freedom to Marry week, which advocates active discussion to promote marriage equality.
Luke Matheis, Overland Park junior and membership coordinator for KU College Republicans, said he supported equality and understanding of the gay and lesbian community. Because he isn’t homosexual, Matheis said he didn’t feel directly involved in issues such as marriage equality.
“I don’t consider it my fight,” Matheis said. “Gay marriage will come in its own time. I agree more with letting people be.”
Corvino said he understood why people didn’t feel connected to the gay marriage movement, but issues such as equality should be important to everyone in a community, not just gay rights supporters.
“The debate over same-sex marriage really didn’t become prominent until the turn of the century,” Corvino said. “ What I discuss is the importance of ‘coming out,’ not just for gay people, but for anyone who is supportive of gay marriage.”
Jeremy Adkison, Leavenworth sophomore, is one of the members of Queers & Allies helping sponsor Corvino’s lecture. Adkison said he believed civil unions could be a step towards marriage equality.
Still, Adkison said gay and lesbian couples cared more about the idea behind marriage than the benefits that came with it.
“The truth is it’s the word marriage. It’s not the rights,” Adkison said. “The 14th Amendment gives everyone equal rights, but people can’t get married or extend insurance to their children because they’re not considered the same.”
Matt Kemnitz, formation director of St. Lawrence Catholic Church, said gay marriage was wrong because acting on homosexual tendencies, not being homosexual in itself, was a sin. Corvino said he would respond to such beliefs tonight.
“I’m definitely going to address this disconnect,” Corvino said. “I understand where it comes from, but there’s something unnatural about drawing a line between orientation and action.”
Corvino said people frequently told him the lecture made them think more about homosexuality. Some, he said, even changed their views completely after his speech. While students may come to the lecture firm in their own beliefs, Corvino said the speech usually caused most of the audience to reevaluate their stance on homosexuality.
“Even if people in the audience have made up their minds on certain things, they haven’t on everything,” Corvino said. “Part of the dialogue we have with each other is to give the audience something to think about.”
7. The Argonaut, February 12, 2009
Idaho Commons & Student Union, Box 442540, Moscow, ID 83844-2540
University raises gay marriage awareness
Written by Dara Barney
The right for same sex couples to marry was the inspiration behind the University of Idaho’s annual Freedom to Marry Week, which began Monday. “Freedom to Marry Week is a time for people across the nation to observe the fact that we are trying to get marriage equality,” said Rebecca Rod, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender program adviser in the University of Idaho Women’s Center.
This program has been at UI for three years, she said.
“For Freedom to Marry Week in 2007, we focused on educating about marriage privileges, last year we sponsored a major speaker (Dan Savage) in collaboration with the Core Curriculum and this year I would say we focused more on the legal issues and family aspects,” she said.
This year, there were two main events.
“On Wednesday, we showed a documentary made in 2004 about the mayor of San Francisco allowing gay marriages and the repercussions that followed,” she said. “We also had students from the UI Law School come in and talk about the different kinds of partnerships available in other states.”
The Lavender Lunch program, which happens every Thursday, brought in a guest speaker who talked about growing up with lesbian parents, she said.
“Marriage rights for same-sex couples is a huge topic of conversation in the larger culture,” she said. “It is an important issue that people need to be informed about. We have families too, and we work alongside people who are getting benefits we aren’t.”
On the Web site www.freedomtomarry.org, Evan Wolfson wrote, “Conversations with the circles of people around us are the prerequisite to winning, the key to helping them push past their discomfort, complacency or indifference to becoming supportive of our equality.”
Wolfson, a civil rights representative and lawyer, heads the Freedom to Marry program. The Web site encourages communication as an important role in the path to end gay marriage prejudice.
“The observance of Freedom to Marry Week is observed on many campuses nationwide,” Rod said. “It is a hot topic.”
This week’s event occurs on college campuses across the nation.
“We brainstormed on how to observe and recognize it here,” she said.
Everyone needs to be respected and have a voice, she said.
“It is my job to bring awareness on these types of topics and issues. Our campus is invested in creating the kind of environment where everyone can feel respected and welcomed,” she said.
She said she personally hopes gay marriage will eventually become more accepted. She and her partner have been together for more than 17 years.
“We care deeply about having our relationship recognized and being able to protect the life we’ve built together,” she said.
8. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, February 11, 2009
Campus Center – 113, Amherst, MA 01003
FEATURE: Present for Change
Convincing others of the right to exist may be doing just that
By William McGuinness
The sun was not up over the palm trees behind his house on Los Angeles' Makee Avenue when a nightmare terrorized Martin Aguilera until he could sleep no more. He imagined a man in his room, an intruder, who caused the nine-year-old to swing his legs from under his blankets and sink to his knees beside his bed. Whenever he was scared, the young Aquilera prayed to the Virgin Mary. He always felt a connection to her. Before he was Martin, his parents entertained the name “Guadalupe.” Kneeling there, he said the Hail Mary five times before he felt comfortable enough to fall back asleep – before he was certain the man of his dreams wouldn’t come back.
Steven Greenberg struggled similarly while in the deserts of his Holy Land. Coming to understand himself while working to understand God, he was drawn to a fellow male student. Believing himself to be bisexual then, he approached a trusted spiritual advisor. The sage said, “My dear one, my friend, you have twice the power to love. Use it carefully.”
Both gay men have struggled to reconcile their sexual identities with the institutions in their families and lives. When Greenberg first said, “I’m gay,” he saw a cliff. He said it’s not unique to his experience but appears to many homosexuals from traditional backgrounds. He was backed up to its edge. There, the horizon was far off but clear, and the sky stretched over him until it met another far off distance. The only indistinguishable feature is what lies ahead. There was once a trajectory that seemed good. It carried him through a life that would bring him a perfect wedding, children and the accoutrements associated with conventional happiness. They were created long ago by a 16- or 17-year-old boy looking for security in television dreams.
“Every hopeful imagination of what the future holds is dashed by this one fact of your inner life,” he said.
At the cliff, the route that would bring him to safety shattered and fell like shadows into the obscurity below.
“You admit it, then all the whole array of plans, your imagination and others, they’re gone,” he said. “You mourn them; you mourn the loss of all that. What does it mean to fantasize from the time you’re 16 years old, 15 or younger?”
He said these imagined lives are desired by the young simply because they are desirable things. The rules are constructed – and enforced – by family and peers. The norms produce the ideal of happiness. But for Greenberg and Aguilera and countless others then and now and in the future, the rules don’t anymore.
The world sees its institutions as largely immutable. The Ten Commandments have governed basic morality for centuries. Religion has provided stability to social changes in many settings. Amherst’s honor code has governed generations of students and the Constitution of the United States is our country’s framework and foundation at once. Law is the sovereign judge of our judges.
David Roseborough, an assistant professor in social work at the University of St. Thomas, wrote in a paper, “the tension between religion and sexuality is particularly pronounced for gay and lesbian people who are often ‘caught in the middle’ between a constitutional sexual orientation and a church body that rejects it.” The person who now recognizes he is gay sees that sexuality and religion are closely linked but not always comfortably.
To some of his denomination, Rabbi Steven Greenberg -- the first openly gay Rabbi in orthodox Judaism -- is an abomination. The sage in Jerusalem did not hold this view but gave no endorsement of homosexuality, either. Greenberg’s God seemed different than the versions who hated him. He could not imagine a deity that he would worship and love and believe to love him who would violate his most basic understanding of scripture – who would create a class of people who would never experience love and affection.
In Compton, Los Angeles, Aguilera felt his community squeezing him out. So he left at 16 years old. He imagined his very identity as contrary to Catholicism and what he was taught a man, in his neighborhood, should act like. So he left it. Bright and motivated to escape, he found himself clear across the country at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass. The Pioneer Valley was surely different from Los Angeles.
“There, I felt F-R-E-E-D-O-M,” he said. He had not yet come to Greenberg’s cliff, but a weight was already removed. At Deerfield, people weren’t sized up according to their machismo. Projecting manliness was no longer an issue because the high school was filled with students painfully aware that they were not yet adults.
But the required reading, with its coming-of-age tales, foreshadowed a time for Aguilera when he would have to leave Deerfield and construct his own image of himself. Greenberg said, “It can feel like dying. How do you expect to work toward a future you can’t even imagine?”
Greenberg found his answer in his usual place, but one that may seem surprising. He opened his Torah and read from the Book of Jacob.
The story has violence and a young man laboring for love. His family is dysfunctional; he becomes entangled in a power struggle for his father’s inheritance. His brother is the perfect foil – a hairy and brutish hunter to Jacob’s fair-faced domesticity.
He comes into the world grabbing onto his brother’s ankle as if trying to prove himself worthy of life too. The two grow up and apart. His brother hunts while Jacob stays at home with his mother and cooks among the women.
The narrative is woven with ideas involving identity and what it means to be a man. Like many other stories in the Bible, Jacob struggles before coming to know God on a personal level. The rising action involves his vengeful brother marching with an army of 400 men to destroy him. The climax is an action scene but one with a mysterious assailant.
The man comes from nowhere, and Jacob wrestles him for hours until a stalemate is reached. Some say the mysterious figure was an angel. The story is rife with issues of acceptance and chronicles a young man torn between his church and state of being. In an interview, Greenberg adds a twist: the angel is a representation of Jacob’s feelings. He struggles with himself and overcomes his fears, and the blessing he receives afterwards is from both God and his consciousness. Following the fight, the man renames Jacob “Israel.”
Greenberg sees a bit of himself in Jacob. Both possess a different kind of masculinity. Compared to the he-man, Jacob seems almost effeminate. He sees Jacob’s stalemate with the assailant as “an affirmation of his emotional growth.” Limping from the fight, Jacob is renamed Israel because “he has wrestled with men and with God, and he has proven himself capable.”
The interview is interrupted. A colleague calls and a father has a son who is gay and the man doesn’t know what to do. Greenberg asks to break momentarily while the cliff is encountered again.
Martin Aguilera’s father might have been on the other line if he weren’t a staunch Roman Catholic from Mexico, if Greenberg’s congregation were in Compton, Los Angeles and if he had any inclination his oldest son is gay.
Oddly, most at Amherst College know. He came out to female friends during his sophomore year and to others later. Now, he leads the Gay Amherst Party, a LGBT community building organization.
“I had to come out because it just felt right,” Aguilera said. He dated a young woman from Smith College during his freshman year, but it felt uncomfortable and forced. Coming out at Amherst College seemed relatively safe, but an awkwardness lingered. He almost enjoyed the comfort of Compton’s overt homophobia, where displays of machismo are peppered with “fag” jokes. But at Amherst, there existed a discomfort with not knowing.
“Beneath these layers of tolerance, there exists an idea of the way things ‘should be,’” he said. “I think those lines of tolerance are blurred at Amherst and are much more difficult to navigate as opposed to home – where I know it's just a no-no.”
He said it’s difficult to determine whether his male friends are accepting, simply tolerant or worse.
Greenberg and Aguilera walked from respective airplanes into lives both were still dreaming of. Greenberg was starting as the first gay rabbi in his church, and Aguilera was headed home for Christmas dinner – gay at Amherst and straight in Compton.
Greenberg published “Gayness and God: Wrestlings of a Gay Orthodox Rabbi” in Tikkun magazine, a Jewish news and culture publication. A mix of memoir and close reading of the Torah, Greenberg started a more serious study on the matter of his warring identities. He published the article under a Hebrew pseudonym that translates to “and Jacob was left alone.”
“It brings about the loneliness of discovering yourself to be gay and the wrestling of men against society and the expectation of manhood and with God,” he said.
He expected a “bumpy road” after the article was published, yet it was well-received by most of his colleagues. Only one colleague could not cope with Greenberg’s new role in the Jewish faith.
“I don’t know why you are doing this to yourself,” the friend said. “I can’t deal. I’m sorry.”
His family reacted as expected in his tradition. His father took the better part of a year to come to terms. His mother, a Holocaust survivor, saw her dreams for her son disintegrate and, for several years, could not find peace with her oldest son. She saw his old trajectory of grandchildren, a marriage, and more family fade away.
Greenberg saw his mother’s grief and a woman with a set of expectations that had little room for a gay son. So he moved to slowly start transforming their shared religion.
His article, the culmination of ten years of study and self examination, became a book, “Wrestling with God and Men.” Director Sandi Simcha DuBowski featured Greenberg in his documentary, “Trembling Before G-d,” often used as a teaching tool in reconciling sexuality with faith.
He sat in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, each year with his tallit pulled over his head. Every year, all of Leviticus 18 is read. A rabbi reads of Moses relaying each of God’s commandments to the Israelites, and Greenberg found himself in tears.
““[A man] should not lay with another man as [he would] with a woman, it is a toeva [abomination]” (Leviticus 18:22).
“There were years when I could barely contain the tears,” he said. “At some point I decided to add protest, and I stood up. I don’t know what it meant. And finally I couldn’t cry anymore,” he said in the documentary. He approached the lectern with sweating palms. The distance between him and the open scroll shrank, and a calm fell over him.
“I realized my willingness to be vulnerable to the text required the text to be vulnerable to me and to everybody like me,” he said. “I realized that the people who decide what this verse means have never heard my story. They’ve never heard [other homosexuals’ stories]. And if they did, they would no longer be so certain.”
He said the texts should be given faces so that they can evolve just as he said they have for centuries.
“Religions – the healthy ones – respond to new circumstances all of the time,” he said in an interview. “They reinvent themselves all of the time.”
Liza Neal, director of Spiritual Life at Hampshire College, said sexuality and religion are linked because they both exist within the individual – that in a society that often tries to divide objects into bits and pieces, these cannot be separated.
“Both are inherent in you and take you to different states; they are methods of expression,” she said. “Often our angst in religion over sexuality is often because we’re trying to work things out.”
Martin Aguilera stepped from his plane and towards his home and Compton. He walked into his brown house and into his brown living room. He acknowledged the painting of Jesus' head with the crown of thorns hanging above an altar of the Virgin Mary. Next to that is a picture of the deceased Pope John Paul II and the new Pope Benedict.
A candle burns on the altar just as it always has.
Home was bittersweet. It's good to catch up with family and eat 50 cent tacos. Christmas on his father’s side of the family involves 30 members of an extended family and a barrel of Corona. It's slowly coming out that he’s gay. He still gets, “Cuando tu el conseguir estas casado?” When are you getting married?” “Tienes una novia? " “So, do you have a girlfriend?”
Just a week before, he transformed an Amherst College building for the Gay Amherst Party (GAP). He stayed only briefly and walked for most of the snowy night from building to building convincing everyone to go. Inside Porter Dormitory, stuffed chairs and heavy wooden tables were moved to make a dance floor on the polished hardwood. GAP usually brings in a diverse crowd, there for a good DJ and dancing, but Aguilera said bringing the community into “their world” asks others to reexamine their views and stereotypes of gays. Streamers wafted back and forth in the molded thresholds between rooms. Gay, straight and the unsure drank rum and vodka stashed throughout the building and smoked cigarettes outside in the snow.
“What makes change is when people see and feel what it means for someone suffering in the context of a set of decisions that are intending to be good and are doing evil,” Greenberg said. He added that when changing any institution, the laws are the hardest to change. In a country currently chanting for “change” and gripping their chairs to see its first results, the LGBT community looks into the mix feeling bittersweet. For the first time in a decade, they sat back satisfied that their man had won. But with California and Proposition 8, there came the familiar voices saying they’ve asked for too much, too soon – that the tradition is slow to react to them as well.
Rabbi Steven Nathan, a spiritual advisor at Hampshire College, said the ball starts to waver when the humanity of the conflict is evident. In other words, it would be better, since laws cannot do what they wish, to force them to wish what they can do.
Greenberg said the queer community does not want to live in the shadows.
“They don’t want to live in lifelong denial either, and when these stories come out, they slowly begin to change what I call an empathy,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how not one but two sexualities can exist within the world and maybe our laws up until now have applied to heterosexuals.”
He was his family’s first born after the Holocaust and his mother shared her young son’s dreams of family and children. He was named after her father, who was lost in Auschwitz, and her mother. He possessed the birthright that Jacob worked hard to garner from his father.
When Greenberg came out to his mother, he made it very clear that the decision was final, knowing that if there were any shred of doubt, she would work to change him. She mourned as if she had seen a branch of the family die.
“I was seen as the continuity, and I think it was very hard for her to see my life not carry this through in that way,” he said.
When “Trembling Before G-d” was screened in Columbus, Ohio, his mother refused to go at first. But she had her own revelation, seeing the continuity in a different way. She saw people who would benefit from the story and the reality.
“I think she had this fantasy that it was going to be shaming,” he said, “but what she saw was that it just wasn’t.”
“The fit between sexual orientation and religion as a relationship requiring a reworking of one’s own world view is not exclusive,” Roseborough wrote, “gays’ and lesbians’ relationships to government, family and other institutions are also relevant.”
Roseborough said the gay men he interviewed in his study often felt a resurrection after coming out of the closet. Their coming-out stories are framed as faith narratives. After coming to Greenberg’s cliff, each has regained an internal locus of control. Once studied, they see how they can create new trajectories that include their own happiness.
Both Greenberg and Aguilera said some religions are more hospitable to homosexuals than others, that some communities are more comfortable with LGBT people, but neither expresses a desire to change his religion or transfer colleges. Instead, they see the institutions in which they operate as operating for them. The pieces may not have fit before because each hadn’t yet made room for themselves or others.
Greenberg and Aguilera have started. Greenberg said America has too.
William McGuinness can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. The Brandeis Hoot, February 13, 2009
Writer considers intersection between Judaism and sexuality
By Robin Lichtenstein
Leslea Newman, poet laureate of North Hampton, MA, and author of Heather Has Two Mommies, spoke in the ICC Sunday about her experiences as a Jewish lesbian an an event titled “you can’t be lesbian, you’re Jewish!”
Newman said that the title of the event came from an encounter she once had after one of her speaking engagements.
Newman, whose work tends to focus on the intersection of the lesbian and Jewish identities, read a short story entitled “A Letter to Harvey Milk” to the group.
The story went over particularly well with her college-aged audience, who had Sean Penn’s recent film “Milk.”
The story relayed the impact that Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California, had on an elderly Jewish man living in Brooklyn, New York following Milk’s assassination.
The man and the people around him were young adults during WWII, and remembered what being gay in a concentration camp meant, and were fascinated by how the times had changed. The protagonist writes a letter to Milk for a writing class he is taking to fill the time, and asks Milk, “You had to get yourself killed for being a feigaleh?”
Newman, who seems to channel Fran Drescher and that particular brand of New York Jewishness that we like to attribute to our grandparents on Long Island and the Lower East Side, is a graduate of the University of Vermont and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied poets at Naropa University in Boulder, CO, where she studied under Allen Ginsburg. She currently teaches at the Stone Coast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. At the age of 27, Newman came out and reconnected with her Jewish faith.
Newman sees herself as “one stop shopping.” She has encountered some animosity in the Jewish community and ignorance in the lesbian community. In the end, she is, “just trying to get along.”
She has recently released a book of poetry, Nobody’s Daughter, and has just released The Reluctant Daughter, a novel about a woman who does not know whether or not she wants to be a mother until she decides whether or not she wants to be a daughter.
Newman said she got her start in writing professionally when she realized that there was no literature on Jewish lesbians readily available. Heather Has Two Mommies was written after a friend, also gay, had mentioned that there was a similar lack of material in children’s literature. Children’s books came easily to Newman. She writes her children’s books in verse, tapping into her skills as a poet, and “always writing a truthful story the most beautiful way I can.”
Newman encouraged the audience to push themselves in their writing. She said her biggest fear is, “page fright-a blank page is the most frightening thing in the world.” However, she challenges herself to write something everyday.
The event was co-sponsored by Brandeis’ Jewish GBLTA club Shalem and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA).
FMLA President Laura Hand ‘11 said that when Shalem contacted her about the event, she saw it as the perfect opportunity for FMLA to reach out and interact with other clubs on campus. She also “saw many feminist ideals in Newman’s work.”
Shalem Co-president Emily Jaeger ’11 said that the club, in its first year at Brandeis, was looking for a speaker that embodied both the Jewish and gay identities.
“Personally I was very moved by the writing and very pleased with the turnout,” said fellow Co-president, Noam Sienna ’11.
10. Yale Daily News, February 13, 2009
P. O. Box 209007, New Haven, CT 06520-9007
Housing may go gender-neutral
By Eric Randall
Administrators are nearing a decision on a gender-neutral housing proposal that could be implemented as soon as next fall.
The Committee on Gender-Neutral Housing will present its recommendations to residential college masters in a meeting today. Although the four members of the committee would not comment on the specifics of the recommendations, two members said a change in the University’s current policy, which prohibits mixed-gender housing, may occur as soon as the upcoming housing cycle. Maria Trumpler, special assistant to the deans for LGBTQ affairs, said she expects the measure to gain support among the Council of Masters and administrators.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in an interview Thursday night that while she was initially “skeptical” of the idea, her views on the proposal have shifted.
“As I’ve learned more about the success of mixed gender housing at other universities, I have become more open to the idea that it can happen here,” Miller said, adding that her personal feelings are less important than the opinions of the twelve residential college masters.
If any policy change is made, it will apply to all 12 colleges, Trumpler said.
“We want to make sure that whatever option works out works in all of the colleges, not just one or two of the colleges,” Trumpler said. “We also want it to work out equitably.”
Two committee members — chair John Meeske ’74, the associate dean for physical resources and planning, and Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss — said they could not confirm with certainty whether administrators will decide to approve a gender-neutral housing policy. But both said that if the proposal meets with widespread approval among residential college masters and administrators, the changes could be implemented in time for the 2009-’10 academic year.
For her part, Trumpler said she thinks the proposal will be well-received by an increasing number of masters and administrators.
“We’re expecting that a broad base of support will emerge,” Trumpler said in an interview Wednesday.
The Committee on Gender-Neutral Housing was convened in fall 2007 after two Ivy League housing conferences revealed that all but two Ivy League universities, Princeton and Yale, had yet to implement some form of gender-neutral housing. The committee consists of Meeske, Krauss, Trumpler and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry.
The procedure for approving gender-neutral housing is unclear, given that the policy move would be unprecedented at Yale. What is clear, however, is that the support of the residential college masters and University President Richard Levin is necessary for a housing change to be passed, Meeske said.
Krauss agreed, adding that the Council of Master’s verdict will be essential.
“[Masters] are a critical stakeholder,” Krauss said. “People are going to listen to what they have to say.”
But because the housing rules are in the undergraduate regulations, Krauss added, the final approval must come from Yale College Dean Mary Miller.
Yale’s residential college system complicates the implementation of gender-neutral housing. While other universities can designate one dorm or one floor as gender-neutral, Yale’s housing system precludes a similar solution, Trumpler said.
Harvard University’s house system presents similar problems. Harvard implemented a limited form of gender-neutral housing in 2007 on a suite-by-suite basis for those who self-identify as transgender. But some take issue with this case-by-case approval, Trumpler said.
“We would like to avoid that,” Trumpler said. “We think people shouldn’t have to justify their reasons.”
Yoshi Shapiro ’11, co-coordinator of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Cooperative at Yale, agreed that gender-neutral housing is not solely in the interests of transsexual or queer students.
“I think it’s also for gay students and straight students alike,” Shapiro said. “There definitely are male and female friends that would like to live with each other.”
Five students interviewed all said they would support a gender-neutral housing policy at Yale.
“As long as you don’t have to be in gender-neutral housing, that’s all right,” Michelle Wolfe ’11 said.
Emma Sloan ’10 said she strongly supported making Yale’s housing gender-neutral because she believes the idea that men and women are necessarily attracted to the opposite sex is “antiquated.”
Shapiro, at least, is hopeful that this “antiquated” idea is on the way out.
“I think it is going to pass in the next couple years. I think [Yale is] behind the times on this issue,” Shapiro said. “The administration is in a good place right now.”
Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania were the first Ivy League schools to provide gender-neutral housing options in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Harvard and Cornell universities and Dartmouth College followed in 2007.
Raymond Carlson contributed reporting.
11. Colorado Daily, February 13, 2009
1048 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302
Two minutes of affection: CU students make out to promote same-sex tolerance
By Kyle McDaniel
BOULDER, Colo. — With about 10 couples making out around her, University of Colorado sophomore Irene Kern held up a white poster board with a big red heart drawn on it.
Kern, along with other student couples and supporters, gathered outside of the University Memorial Center on Friday for a demonstration entitled, "Make Out Stake Out." The rally gave gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students -- and their straight supporters -- an opportunity to challenge societal norms of same-sex public displays of affection.
At exactly 11:53 a.m. on the day before Valentine's Day, about 100 gay and straight students gathered around the Dalton Trumbo Fountain on campus. Some couples made out while other people held hands or hugged each other. After two minutes, the students walked off in different directions as if nothing happened.
The event was meant to express their frustration because "same-sex public displays of affection are often treated with less tolerance" than heterosexual displays, according to the organizers' Facebook event page. Kern and her friends organized the event, she said.
"I thought this is necessary to put it in people's faces that same-sex PDA should be viewed the same as heterosexual PDA," Kern said. "It's just very frustrating when you get more looks than heterosexual couples do just because you're partners of the same sex."
To help get the word out, they posted an event page on Facebook, helping the protest gain more support as people heard about it.
"It just started out as 'Hey, this would be cool to do. Why don't we get some people together to do it?'" Kern said.
Jason Palo La Costa, a junior architecture major who came to the event to show his support, said he first heard about the demonstration on Facebook and then heard various people discussing the idea.
"The more I actually heard people talking about it, the more interested I became," he said. "Initially, I wasn't going to come because I don't have a boyfriend right now. Then I was told that people were going to just be hugging and kissing and just come show my support for the numbers. So I thought I would come down."
Brittany Alverson, a junior psychology major who said she's a lesbian, came to the event to raise awareness on campus.
"I think a lot of people don't realize that we are a pretty big demographic on campus," she said. "And this is a really good way of showing that even though it may be somewhat abrupt and offensive to some people, it needs to be done."
12. The Rider News, February 13, 2009
Ridge House, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
WCC Student Sings: Case for Proposition 8 full of holes
By Kerilyn Acer
After reading the Letter to the Editor from a recent edition of The Rider News, (Traditional marriage, welfare of kids protected by Prop 8, Dec. 5), I was very intrigued. What I had before me was an argument in opposition to gay marriage, based on the foundation that its allowance is not in society’s “best interest.” I am not writing to attack the author of the article, for I feel he did a good job in intelligently laying out his claims and reasoning. But I feel the reasons are insufficient, and the claims are not supported satisfactorily.
What was frightening about the article was that the author dismissed with ease and confidence the possibility of it being a discriminatory act to prohibit gay marriage. By believing that there is a “true and only acceptable form of a family and well-being of children” (I will refer to this as the “Way It Is Argument”), he cannot see how any other elements in the gay marriage issue are as important as preserving this traditional institution.
But it is a fundamental truth, as fundamental as the historical “definition” of marriage, that denying human beings happiness, contentment and freedom to do as they please (within the confines of acting morally) is wrong. It is especially wrong when someone is deprived of these things for the mere sake of upholding the way things have been in the past and because of a fearful unwillingness to allow for evolutionary social change.
I consider the author’s argument to be filled with holes simply because it is rooted in the “Way It Is Argument.” This type of argument is very hard to separate from the arguer’s personal opinions and beliefs, and so to vouch for its legitimacy as a reason to not allow gay marriage is nearly impossible.
At one point in the letter, an example was given to show how homosexuals are not being discriminated against by being denied marriage rights. We were asked to consider “the attempt by two heterosexual men to marry one another for the purpose of bypassing certain property and/or economic laws.” Since it is all right to deny a heterosexual man and woman a marriage license for these reasons, it is also OK to deny a homosexual couple a marriage license. But this is a moot point because marriage is only legal between a heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman — and all other cases automatically fall under the “not legally permissible” category. Although the verdict of Prop 8 upheld this, life has proven time and time again that a black and white outcome used to paintbrush over a question of right or wrong almost never works.
How can anyone be fully confident in claiming there is one “family structure proven to be best for children?” Even a small amount of common sense leads one to raise his or her eyebrow at this, knowing that a positive environment for children is made up of much more than the gender or sexual orientation of their parents. The elements of a successful marriage or raising of children are non-gender specific qualities. I believe this is obvious once you come in contact with just one of the many wonderful children being raised by exceptional parents in homosexual relationships. But many are still doubtful as to whether this kind of relationship is a suitable one for a child’s overall well-being. I believe the only reason this question exists is because, in the past, the recognition of homosexuals as a part of society was far more stifled than it is today. Now that the initiative is being taken to grant them equality in all aspects of life, it is new territory for us all. Some fear these new grounds and cling desperately to things like “laws of early civilizations” and believe that marriage as a “social institution with children at its heart” is somehow threatened. But trepidation has led them to falsely believe that the fight for gay marriage is about overturning old ways, when actually it is only concerned with the creation of freedoms for worthy, equal citizens.
Matrimony is not only an institution that “serves to bring the father into a legal relationship with his offspring,” though it may very well have begun as that. It is far more in today’s society: matrimony is an ultimate profession of an enduring devotion to and love for another human being. It is a lawful contract, but for most people marriage is more importantly an emotional contract. And so it is not hard to understand how insulting it is when the relationship you have devoted yourself to and hold close to your heart is deemed not qualified for this contract. This “noise” being made by gay-rights activists comes from a place of justified frustration. They are sick and tired of the other side not “playing fair” and in the face of their democracy failing to “benefit them” as it promises to, they have chosen to not “admit defeat.”
The author feels it is ironic that some people consider Proposition 8 a step backwards for the nation, but I marvel at the irony in his frustration that prudent citizens like him are “told their opinions do not matter, that their voices aren’t heard and that their votes do not count.” It certainly is a terrible thing to feel like your voice isn’t heard, whether that voice is in support of or opposition to gay marriage.
I admit, in recognition of the concerns and plights of both sides, that the direction in which Proposition 8 has taken the country will remain debatable for some time. It often cannot be clear what is a step forward and what is a step backward, but taking some kind of step certainly avoids the danger of standing still. We have never been a country to falter in the face of progress. Whether those who disagree with the gay rights movement will admit it or not, our nation has come to a crossroads, as we have so many times before. I am confident that, in the end, the path taken will be one that allows for equality to flourish as it should.
Kerilyn Acer is a sophomore voice performance major at Westminster Choir College.
13. The Daily Evergreen, February 13, 2009
P.O. Box 642510, 113 Murrow East, Pullman, WA 99164
WSU students celebrate Freedom to Marry Day
GIESORC offered mock wedding ceremonies to those interested in celebrating the annual event.
By Trina Jones
It may sound familiar: “I give you my trust, fidelity, love and affection and promise to defend our union until time sets us apart …” These marriage vows sound like part of a ceremony in a church, a nice country club or a romantic beach – not a busy afternoon in the CUB surrounded by iPod-plugged Cougars scribbling in notebooks or rustling newspapers.
However, these were the vows repeated by couples in a mock marriage ceremony organized by the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Allies.
The celebration was part of National Freedom to Marry Day, an annual event held around Valentine’s Day and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday when people’s thoughts are focused on love and equality, said Demere Woolway, assistant director of GIESORC.
The event took place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in the CUB. GIESORC also held a discussion of marriage at 4:30 p.m.
Nick Harlow, a sophomore music-business major, said the groups hoped to educate WSU students about the rights and responsibilities that laws deny same-sex couples.
Woolway said some of the differences between civil unions and civil marriages include passages of property, child custody, hospital visitation rights and tax benefits. She said she hoped students would learn about this disparity through the demonstration.
“There are a variety of couples, there are a variety of ways to make a family,” Woolway said. “The state should not discriminate based on sex.” The event began with Harlow giving a small speech on the purpose of the mock ceremony and Freedom to Marry Day. Then, several couples of the same or different sexes got up on stage and exchanged vows and rings and signed mock marriage licenses.
Beyond education, the point of the event was to help the WSU community grow more accustomed to same-sex relationships, said Erin King, a sophomore food science and human nutrition major. An overall goal was to change WSU students’ general opinions of the GLBT community.
“A lot of opinions on campus are ‘We are going to tolerate you being here, instead of we are accepting you as a part of this community,’” senior zoology major Nora Lee said.
Students in the CUB seemed to agree with the group’s message.
“I like the idea of it, and I completely support it,” said Jadon Carossino, a senior management information systems major. “I believe everyone should have the opportunity to marry whoever they want to marry.” Students were standing in the CUB before and after the mock marriage ceremony, handing out rainbow cupcakes, heart lollipops and fliers to passers by.
For more information, students can go to the GIESORC or GLBTA Web sites, the GIESORC office in CUB 401 or attend the GLBTA meetings, 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. GIESORC events are open to everyone.
“Love is love,” King said, in summary of the day’s theme.
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