A rainbow flag waved above Miami Beach City Hall to commemorate this weekend’s Gay Pride festival, a two-day event marked by a large parade.
UPride, the University of Miami’s LGBT club, participated in the seventh annual parade on Ocean Drive on Sunday afternoon. It was the second time the student organization created a float for the parade.
Despite these celebrations, members of the LGBT community like sophomore Morgan Owens are concerned about the controversy in Indiana. The state tried to pass an act that would have legally permitted businesses to deny service to those with alternative lifestyles.
“I am not infringing upon your religious practices by being me, by eating food at your restaurant,” Owens said. “And quite frankly, if your sincerely held religious beliefs include a compulsion to deny service to someone in a public establishment, then that does need examination.”
National tempers flared in the past few weeks when Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana. Major corporations such as Nike and Apple released statements reaffirming their belief in equality and diversity while several large cities boycotted the state by suspending publicly funded city employee travel to Indiana.
“San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana,” San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee stated in a news release.
Governor Pence was forced to reiterate the intention behind the legislation and solidify his stance on discrimination based on sexual orientation, adding the clarification to the RFRA.
Further south, Alabama legislators have declared that they will go against the Supreme Court if it decides to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage throughout the nation. After same-sex marriage was legalized in Alabama, the state decided to abruptly stop giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February.
Caroline Mala Corbin teaches constitutional law with a specialization on the First Amendment at the University of Miami School of Law. In addition to being a professor, Corbin is a longtime advocate for the civil rights of traditionally subordinated groups.
Corbin says the construction of the U.S. government would not allow Alabama to bring its claims to fruition.
“The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that the federal constitution trumps any contrary laws in the states,” she said. “That’s the way our government is sectioned.”
While same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights are relatively new topics of controversy, the present situation hints at foundational beliefs that were active before and during the Civil War.
“The people are very old fashioned,” said Clay Cowart, a sophomore electronic media major who transferred to UM from the University of Alabama last year.
The tension will reach an apex on April 28, when the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the ban.
According to Corbin, the same-sex marriage ban may violate both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause because queer people are being treated differently than heterosexual Americans and because marriage is a fundamental right.
“I look forward to the day where marriage equality is the law of the land, but it’s only the first step toward full equality,” she said. “We also need laws protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and in employment and in places of public accommodation.”
Miami is the most liberal city in Florida, according to a study Business Insider conducted in June 2014. Though same-sex marriage is legal in Florida, there is still no statewide law preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Owens, treasurer-elect for UPride, and political science and women’s and gender studies major, is also president of Delta Lambda Phi, the “queer men’s fraternity” at UM. Growing up Wiccan, Owens says he recognizes the value of religion, but does not think discrimination of any kind should fit into those beliefs.
“As much as I am someone who is religious and thinks that religion has a really important place in people’s lives, [RFRA] enters the area where that’s not loving or supportive. I would say that’s not healthy,” Owens said.
On his lower right bicep, Owens has a tattoo of the Wiccan Rede, the mantra of morality: “Do no harm.”
“Any different flavor of human is possible and totally OK, too,” Owens said. “Not just simply that these people exist, but that they exist and can contribute and be cool and awesome people, and be good and have value.”