St. Mary’s students are doing their best to keep the campus updated on national news that one might miss while living in a college bubble. A flier posted in Calvert Hall points out state legislation that many think denies civil liberties, informing the student body of news they might have missed. “NOTICE,” the flier reads, listing the recent bans on same sex marriage in vibrant rainbow ink, “Don’t give up! We are not and cannot be defeated!”
While many St. Mary’s students were celebrating the overwhelming outcome of the presidential election on Nov. 4th, protests on the West Coast demonstrated outrage rippling across the nation. The three most recent state bans on same-sex marriage were passed through on the same ballots that welcomed 44th President-elect Obama to the White House. This adds California, Arizona and Florida to the list of 30 states that have similar legislation.
The official ballot title of California’s Proposition 8 reads, “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry,” and amends the state’s constitution by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This amendment will overturn the state’s Supreme Court decision that allowed for same-sex marriages in May of this year.
Earlier in 2008, California Supreme Court justices ruled 4-3 that discriminating against sexual orientation was unconstitutional and violated citizens’ rights to marry. States have the right to decide if they will allow civil unions between homosexual couples, and also to decide if they will allow marriage. Now, ballot counts found that 52% of California voters supported Proposition 8, despite pleas from the gay community to support equality. To the nation’s surprise, religious loyalty resulted in 70% of Californian African American voters (many of whom voted for Barack Obama) voting for Proposition 8 to be passed.
The same people who were celebrating in May are now passionately protesting the backers of Proposition 8, most notably religious groups that campaigned using $35.8 million in funding. On Nov. 10, a protest in California gathered more than 400 people outside a Mormon temple to protest the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ huge support for the gay marriage ban. Pictures taken show same-sex couples holding signs that say “Justly Married” and chanting messages of equality. Additionally, in Sacramento, CA, another thousand protesters joined together in a peaceful, yet exasperated, crowd. A rally protesting Proposition 8 in Washington D.C on Nov. 16 illustrates the spread of this controversy across the entire nation.
A press release from the group Equality California, a proponent for “No on Prop 8,” echoes the sentiments of these members of the community. “We know people of all faiths, races, and backgrounds stand with us in our fight to end discrimination, and will continue to do so.”
Limiting rights worries citizens concerned about setting discriminating precedents; in the future more legislation that limits civil liberties could be passed in this manner. St. Mary’s students, known for their tolerance and acceptance, are generally opposed to limiting the rights of same-sex couples. “In America we put heterosexual relationships on a pedestal,” said junior Dan Schell, “but you can have a relationship with anyone.”
The majority of St. Mary’s students agree. Regardless of religious affiliation or political party, limiting rights raised concerns among the student body. “You can twist religion into anything you want it to be,” said Brittany Creeden, class of 2011. “You can spin it any way you want, so I think you really have to know what you’re supporting and why.”
As controversial as the limitations placed on gay marriage have been, the passage of Act 1 in Arkansas has caused even more of a stir. Act 1 outlaws unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children, applying to heterosexual and same-sex couples alike. The Family Council Action Committee (FCAC) was the primary supporter for getting this action onto the November ballot. This ban prohibits cohabitating unmarried couples and same-sex couples from taking in children, but single citizens living without a partner may still adopt.
According to the FCAC website, the primary reason for limiting adoption is to protect children from being used as a means to promote “the homosexual social or political agenda.”
Focus on the Nation, the organization which is fighting to say that the law is unjust, states that the FCAC’s idea of being “pro-family” is completely countered by their goal to limit prospective homes and loving adoptive and foster families.
Julia Rocha, a first-year student, believes that law should be “all about majority rule, but with respect to minority rights.” All citizens must decide if they believe civil rights are implied or if they are something we all must agree upon.