Massive demonstrations across the state of California following the passage of a ban on gay marriage have rekindled the debate on the issue across the country—even at Marist College.
On Nov. 5, about 52 percent of Californians voted in favor of an amendment called Proposition 8, which will change the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry and provide that marriage be legally defined between only a man and a woman.
Four students from California weighed in on their rejection of Proposition 8 and belief that gay marriage should be legal in their home state.
“I believe that homosexuals should have the right to do whatever they choose and it should be recognized by the state,” said freshman Kevin Peterson who voted against Proposition 8 via absentee ballot.
James Freeman, a junior, said that he voted against Proposition 8 because he believes that homosexuals and heterosexuals should have the same rights.
“I believe that no group of people should be denied their rights as humans to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Freeman. “I believe that by supporting Proposition 8 I would be denying the homosexual community the right of equality which is something that I refuse to do.”
Freshman Nelson Benitez said he would have voted against Proposition 8, but was also unable to vote via absentee ballot.
Proposition 8 garnered wide support among minorities in California, including 70 percent of black voters and 53 percent of Latino voters.
Benitez, a first generation American citizen, said that his parents who immigrated to America from El Salvador probably voted in favor of Proposition 8 because of their conservative values.
“They thought [gay marriage] was unnatural; it’s not common in our culture,” he said. “It’s not something that is in our family. Nobody from my family is openly gay. My parents are very religious and would have disagreed with the idea of a marriage with the same sex.”
Junior Edward Ybarra did not register to vote in time for the California election, but said he opposed Proposition 8 because had qualms with the central role that religion has played in the gay marriage debate.
“I think it’s oppressive and puts the gay community on somewhat of a second class level,” Ybarra said. “I also think it’s an avenue by which we’ve let religion dictate policy as most of the opposition came from the religious right.”
Ybarra said that gay marriage is a legal matter and religion should not impact California’s stance on gay marriage.
For some Catholics, on the other hand, religious beliefs and church teachings are an important factor to consider.
“I’ve been taught all my life that marriage is between a man and a woman,” freshman James Boylan said. “I mean two guys can live together, but marriage to me is the sacrament of a man and woman giving themselves to each other.”
“The Church teaches marriage is between a man and a woman,” said junior Douglas Hartley. “Regardless of the religion aspect, marriage has always been and should always be the union between a man and a woman.”
“My belief is that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman,” Hartley said. “When you make it between same-sex couples it looses that special term of being married.”
There is a concern among opponents of gay marriage that legalizing gay marriage would damage the institution of marriage.
“As young people in our culture we should be concerned about how the values in our country are disintegrating,” senior Matt Reiman said. “Marriage between a man and a woman is the best way to raise a child.”
On May 15, the California Supreme Court, in a 4-3, vote ruled that statutes in California that define marriage as a union between a man and woman violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution thus allowing individuals of the same-sex to marry under the California Constitution.
Reiman views the passage of Proposition 8 as a victory for the people of California over the California Supreme Court.
“I think that people should decide what constitutes what marriage in their state, not judges,” Reiman said. “It was important for people to express what marriage meant…it was the will of the people being spoken.”
In states like Massachusetts and Connecticut where same-sex marriage is already legal, there is a concern among supporters of gay marriage that this might create a conservative backlash in these states as well.
For students like junior Molly Costello the passage of Proposition 8 is very troubling.
“I think that it’s a disgrace that we live in a country that they’re passing laws to take people’s rights away. At the bare minimum civil unions should be legal,” she said.
Michael Maglione, who is gay, said he believes that Proposition 8 is an important issue for Marist students to be aware of.
“I think Marist students should know how discriminatory the country can be and that if the time to vote on legalizing gay marriage in New York comes I hope they know enough to go out get the facts and make an intelligent informed decision,” Maglione said.
While the Lesbian, Gay and Straight Alliance (LGSA) said they respect the democratic nature of the Proposition 8, they hope that they can influence the minds of Americans on the gay marriage issue.
“The way we go from here is to convince more people that our cause is the right cause and that they should vote on our side,” said LGSA president Matt Palmeri.