Sophomore dance performance major Lance Hayes has been dating sophomore elementary education major Ryan Greene on and off for the past year and a half. Hayes said they have a close relationship because they are more than amorous partners.
“We met through a friend that used to go to Towson and we started dating. As our relationship formed we became best friends. We can basically talk to each other about anything,” Hayes said. “We can step outside the boyfriend zone and see each other as friends.”
Like many Towson University students, Hayes has an idea of his future after college. He said he and Greene have talked about future desires: They want to adopt a foreign child, own a Corgi, and achieve their occupational goals. There’s also one more thing Hayes is hoping for.
“I plan on getting married with [someone of] the same sex after I graduate, and this would be a great step for raising my own family in the future,” he said.
The state of Maryland may soon be a location for him to do so. Within 10 days, the Senate may vote on legislation that would allow marriage to not just be between a man and a woman.
Sen. James C. Rosapepe announced his support for gay marriage legislation on Thursday, according to The Baltimore Sun, signifying the final vote needed to move the bill to the House of Delegates, where many believe it would pass. Out of the state’s 47 senators, 24 votes are needed for the approval of the bill, which the state has met.
In addition to Rosapepe’s announcement, Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County has given signs that he will support the bill, after hearing seven hours of testimony at a Senate committee’s public hearing. Brochin has traditionally opposed the idea of same-sex marriages.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who does not support gay marriage, predicted the debate will be fierce, but the bill will ultimately pass in the House, according to the Sun article.
Emmanuel Welsh, the Student Government Association director of legislative affairs, said the bill is one of the most controversial that the Senate and House of Delegates has ever considered. Should this bill pass, Maryland will be the sixth state in the U.S. that recognizes same-sex marriages.
Hayes, who supports the bill, predicted a domino effect.
“I believe that society is changing, and if Maryland passes the law, then it will eventually lead to the whole United States to support [it] as well,” he said.
Joshua Nolet, president of the Towson College Republicans and Towerlight contributor, said people shouldn’t try and push their viewpoints on others who think differently.
“My or others’ religious beliefs shouldn’t dictate someone else’s life. Heterosexual and homosexual love is no different,” Nolet said. “Religions should not be forced to recognize or perform same-sex marriage because it is a state issue. Same-sex marriage is not an assault on the family, but rather the creation of new ones that can adopt children, buy homes and provide stability.”
The bill does not include provisions that would force churches, synagogues or mosques to perform or celebrate gay marriages, according to the Sun article.
Amy Becker, an assistant professor in the department of mass communication and communication studies, wrote an article that analyzes how people decide whether they are pro-gay marriage or not. According to her article, age is a large factor in how people feel about the topic.
“The article suggests that for younger people, the thing that influences their attitudes most is having members of their social network like friends and family members who are gay and lesbian. And that personal contact influences their levels of acceptance of homosexuality and engagement with the same-sex marriage issue,” Becker said. “For older people, we’re talking about people over 25, over 35, it’s more about their religion and ideological values that drive their opinions.”
For Maren Greathouse, director of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender development, the topic is more personal. She said people often don’t understand the importance of having marriage rights.
“The right to be recognized as a married couple [like] a heterosexual couple is important, but the bigger issues that resonate with same sex-couples is that they don’t have health care benefits,” Greathouse said. “They can’t share a retirement plan and they don’t have property rights.”
Greathouse said she added her partner on her health insurance earlier this year, which increases her taxes, as the state subsidizes same-sex couples. She was getting charged for her medical insurance and an additional $300 dollars were being subtracted from her paycheck due to an imputed benefit.
“Imagine if I had children that I wanted to have on that plan that were my partner’s legal children and I wasn’t their legal parent. That’s an enormous amount of money,” she said.
Greathouse said one thing could solve these issues.
“By having marriage rights alone, it’s going to eliminate that financial barrier. That alone is an amazing opportunity and reason why we should be talking to our senators and delegates saying we need to support this,” she said. “It gives [homosexual couples] the financial protection that heterosexual couples are [given] already. It’s more than about same-sex couples [being treated] the same as heterosexual couples. It’s about so many things people don’t think about.”
Gail Price, a benefits specialist in Towson University’s department of human resources, said benefits at the University don’t depend on what sex your spouse is.
“Because there were [same-sex] marriages going on, people wanted their same-sex partner on their form as a spouse as opposed to another dependant. So the state accommodated that, but it really doesn’t matter to us if they’re married or not,” Price said. “If [an employee and his or her partner are] domestic partners and there’s certain criteria they have to fulfill, [once fulfilled] they can be on their benefits. We have allowed that under state regulations and are going into our third year in offering that.”
If same-sex marriages are enacted in the state, opponents of the bill intend on creating a petition to move the issue to a ballot vote, according to a Washington Post article. Those in opposition are able to do this through a provision in Maryland law that allows citizens to petition approved legislation.
Regardless if the bill passes or not, Hayes said he plans on starting a family with Greene. He also said others in same-sex relationships should take things in stride.
“I would say trust your instinct and play it as it goes. Play it by ear. Never assume anything. If you think you guys could be together for a while, just go with the flow and don’t care what other people think about you because in the end it’s going to be you and your partner,” Hayes said. “If you guys can see yourselves together, then it doesn’t matter what other people think.”