As the Supreme Court reevaluates the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the potential legalization of same-sex marriage has spurred debate on marriage equality across the nation.
Members of the Butler Alliance, a student organization advocating the tolerance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, observe the importance of the Supreme Court’s decision.
“A lot of people compare it to civil rights issues in the 60s,” said professor David Murray, Alliance faculty adviser. “When women think about it, there was a time when they couldn’t vote. There was a time when African-Americans didn’t have the same rights, even into this century with segregation.“
Murray and his husband were married in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal on a federal level. Murray is optimistic for change in the United States. However, drawing upon past civil rights issues, he fears limitation should the court fail to act.
“They didn’t leave it up to the voters,” Murray said. “Can you imagine putting that to the voters in the South when it came to racial integration or to men asking, ‘Could women have the right to vote?’ when only men could vote?”
Members of Alliance also see this case as an opportunity to raise awareness for an issue that deserves the attention. Alliance President Nick Georgis said regardless of opinion on the topic, the case serves as a possibility for people to recognize the different voices around them and share their own voices.
“Everyone is trying to do the right thing, no matter what their views are,” Georgis said. “You really need to just recognize the community you are living in and be able to have a voice in that community.”
As an organization providing counseling services to both LGBT and straight students, Alliance aims to promote tolerance of all types of people by offering activities and potential solutions to promote acceptance.
“’Sex on the Mall’ is a sex-ed event that we host every year, and this year it’s going to be out on the mall,” Alliance vice president Brie Joyce said. “It’s a fundraiser for the Damien Center, which advocates protection and testing for AIDS, and we’re going to have a very big drag competition that’s going to include Greek life and other groups around campus.”
Murray said having open forums on marriage and similar equality issues could help promote a more vocal and educational stance on the issue.
“Having something like ‘Marriage 101’ and having people from both sides being able to discuss it wouldn’t be a bad thing,” Murray said.
Regardless of the imminent decision on same-sex marriage with regard to the Defense of Marriage Act, Georgis believes marriage equality will be addressed on a national level in the near future whether there is federal intervention or not.
“Even if this case gets thrown out, I think we’re just a few years away,” Georgis said. “People are going to love who they love, the tax benefits are a no-brainer and, once more, politicians begin to realize that more of their constituencies support this. It’s only a matter of time.”