Forum confronts same-sex marriage debate
A forum titled “Will You Marry Me?” addressed the controversial and passionate subject of same-sex marriage on Monday night in University Union Chesapeake I.
The panelists included Rev. Anthony McCarthy, a political analyst and commentator for WYPR-FM, Gregory Kane, a columnist for The Baltimore Sun, David Bergman, a professor in Towson’s English department, and Meredith Moise, a representative from Equality Maryland.
In their opening statements, the speakers summarized their opinions regarding same-sex marriage. Each agreed that same-sex marriage was a divisive and contentious issue. “This is one of those issues that divides our country. I believe that it is an issue that will be decided in the courts,” McCarthy said. “If we had left it up to legislators and the people, it would have been decades before people of color were given their full rights. We have to rely on the courts for changes like civil rights and gay marriage.” Meredith Moise agreed government should look to the past when it comes to homosexual marriage.
“Gay and lesbian people pay into the same institutions, such as taxes. Time and history tell us that separate and equal never works,” she said.
However, Kane disagreed with the idea that a federal amendment should be passed providing marriage rights to same-sex couples. Instead, he advocated for the issue to be decided by the legislative bodies of the individual states.
“There are several problems with going state by state. You could move around and your marriage would suddenly be null and void,” Bergman said.
Following the discussion between the speakers, members of the audience were allowed to ask questions.
Members of the panel reiterated that the forum was originally intended to be a secular discussion, but many of the questions and comments provided by members of the audience were concerned with religious doctrine.
While deliberations between the panel and audience members remained relatively peaceful, there were occasional outbursts from both sides of the argument. A response to a question regarding the Biblical passages that state homosexuality is immoral, the panelists all agreed those who fought for same-sex marriage advocated civil marriage, as opposed to religious marriage.
“People seem to be incapable of separating religious values and civil law. And the founding fathers were very clear about mixing religion and the state. If your opposition rests on religion, then you are failing to separate church and state,” Bergman said. Moise cited the rights and protections provided to married couples including hospital visitation rights, medical power of attorney, health insurance, immigration rights, and adoption.
“Gays and lesbians are demanding civil marriage, which carries with it over one thousand rights and protections. We are not asking for religious marriage because we recognize the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage,” Moise said.
At the end of the question and answer period, each panelist delivered a closing statement that included a reiteration of their beliefs and a comment on how they felt about the forum itself.
They each mentioned that they were impressed by the number of people at the event and by the Towson University community in general.
A total of 128 people attended the three-hour event, which was organized and sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, the department of sociology, anthropology, and criminal justice, and the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues.
The event was part of open forum discussions held every semester by the College of Liberal Arts Colloquium Committee.
Steven Satta, co-chair for the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Committee and an assistant professor in the theater department, said he was very pleased with the forum. “I thought this was extraordinary,” he said. “Initially, I think it got derailed by all the discussions of religion, but this is the sticking point because we need to define where those two issues separate. I hope that we calmed some of the fears of those opposed to gay marriage because we said again and again that we wanted to perform ceremonies that were civil, and were not conducted against their religious beliefs.”
Valerie Hewitt, a senior history major, said she was pleased with the forum also, despite the outbursts from certain members of the audience.
“It was a tremendous success. The speakers were engaging and the crowd was very responsive,” she said. “There were some people who I think were very disrespectful, but they were vastly outnumbered.”
She mentioned her hope for future forums to be as successful.
“This is a really difficult issue that many people from all sides of the argument have a lot of passion and very strong beliefs.
It is something that needs to be discussed, because if people keep talking about what they think, then misunderstandings will be avoided, and things will change,” Hewitt said.