Students protest against bans on gay marriage

By Masudur Rahman

Senior Reporter

The passing of four state ballot proposals — even though none of them took place in Michigan — on Nov. 4 has riled up some Oakland University students. Some of them stood in the rain on Saturday to protest it.

Many of OU’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT), as well as straight supporters of LGBT rights, said they’re upset about the passing of gay marriage bans in California, Florida and Arizona and say it’s a step back in the progression of gay rights.

In June, California started to allow gay marriages, but this was overturned when 52 percent of Californian voters voted to ban gay marriage, making California one of 30 states (Michigan included) that have made gay marriage illegal. Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only two states that have given a legal ruling to gay marriage. Americans in every state simultaneously protested against the results of the anti-gay marriage Proposal 8 last Saturday.

Aimee Coldren, a junior integrative studies major who is gay, said at least three other OU students attended the protest and that it was not only about California but also about the rest of the United States.

“I think it’s important as Americans to not remain quiet when civil rights are being violated,” Coldren said. “Prop 8 is a civil rights violation, when they put it into law that straight people and gay people have different rights.”

Leah Moscowitz is a straight student who supports gay rights, and is an intern in OU’s Gender and Sexuality Center.

“It’s a huge setback,” said Moscowitz regarding the gay marriage bans. “It’s unfortunate that in the year 2008, gay marriage is still not allowed in America.”

“It’s like treating a group of people as second class citizens,” said Katie Wolf, a senior journalism major. Wolf is another straight ally of gay rights and the secretary for OU’s Gay Straight Alliance. “It’s frustrating that homosexuality is used to discriminate … The answer is obvious — [the government] should let anyone who wants to get married.”

Separation of Church and State

Many felt that banning it is unconstitutional, infringes upon equal rights for all Americans and that some of the conservative Christian population are at fault.

“Any current ban on gay marriage can only be viewed as [due to] religious reasons, nothing else,” said Zachary Hill, a sophomore music education major who is gay.

“Marriage is sacred, but only to the religious,” said Wolf. “I don’t acknowledge marriage as sacred, because I don’t have faith.”

Disappointed With Minorities

Some people were disappointed with the role that minority voters played in the recent gay marriage bans.

“Some of the biggest supporters of [the bans] were African Americans,” said Wolf. “This doesn’t make any sense because they fought so hard and so long for their own equality.”

“I think it’s great that so many people showed up to vote for Barack Obama, but it’s unfortunate that they also voted against gay marriage,” Hill said.

Civil Unions

Students had mixed feelings about civil unions, which would legally recognize same-sex couples and give them the same rights as married couples such as tax benefits and hospital visitation rights without calling it marriage.

“They can make civil unions closer to marriage, but it’ll still be discrimination,” Hill said.

“It sounds like the old ‘separate but equal’ deal — it doesn’t make sense,” Moscowitz said. “But each small step towards the right direction is better than nothing.”

Still Hope For The Future

Some students were very optimistic about the future of gay marriage, while others continue to be cautiously optimistic.

“It always takes steps forward and steps back, but overall the direction has been forward,” Coldren said. “But I’m fearful that it won’t happen within my lifetime.”

She feels the current laws discriminate against her and give her fewer rights than straight people.

“Long before I knew I was gay, I knew I was an American,” she said. “I pledged allegiance to a flag that promised me equal rights.”