It appears the floodgates have opened on the issue of gay rights in America. Last week Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage when its Supreme Court ruled that prohibitions on gay marriage are “incompatible” with the guarantees of personal freedom in the state’s constitution.
“The court opinion said that they can’t experience true freedom with a ban on the institution of marriage,” Ali Bustamante, freshman, said. “I think that is so true. I can’t believe President Bush is even looking into changing this – he is not representing the nation on this decision.”
Most would agree that the UM community is tolerant and accepting of gay people on campus.
SpectrUM, the on-campus student organization whose goal is to promote awareness on gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual issues, acknowledges that they are accepted on campus.
“Miami is really good about acceptance,” Cate Dundon, secretary of Spectrum, said. “I don’t really encounter any hostility.”
However, there is definite divergence over the issue of gay rights, especially when it comes to formally legalizing gay marriage. Many people have mixed feelings concerning the issue.
“I think it will open up new doors for people,” Ann Marie Mohan, freshman, said. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s their personal freedom and not my problem.”
According to a recent poll in The Miami Herald, while 80 percent of Americans believe society should put no restrictions on sex between consenting adults, about 55 percent believe that homosexuality is a sin.
Americans say they oppose gay marriage primarily because they see it as morally wrong and against religious beliefs. Many also believe marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman.
It is expected that there will be a backlash from religious conservatives and heated debate between Democrats and Republicans on the issue.
A Miami Herald article equated the recent court rulings in favor of gay rights to the legislation on civil rights and voting rights for blacks in the 1960s.
Currently Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages, and 37 states have laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Some students, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed many of these same sentiments.
“I think marriage is between a man and a woman. I agree with President Bush’s stance on the issue,” one student said. “That’s just the way I was brought up.”
“I just don’t think it’s morally right. It’s not the definition of marriage,” another student said. “I think letting go of our values on this issue will lead to worse decisions.”
However, supporters of gay rights are optimistic about the recent succession of events.
“Anyone who is part of the movement for gay rights will be affected by this decision. The fact that it is a step toward pure equality will help us in the future,” Dundon said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
While SpectrUM’s main focus as an organization is not political activism, it is currently in the process of organizing another on-campus group with a more political agenda. They hope to organize more political events next semester.
The debate over gay marriage is expected to be one of the most contentious issues in the upcoming Presidential campaigns.
The first Presidential debate for the 2004 elections will be held at the UM Convocation Center on Sept. 30.
The Miami Hurricane will continue to follow the issue of gay rights and how it affects the UM community as more information becomes available.
Megha Garg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.