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Panelists discuss local LGBTQ social issues

Alaina Anderson | Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A panel of professors discussed the different current events, issues and policies in the LGBTQ community on Monday at Saint Mary’s.

The panel was organized by Eileen Cullina, the President of Saint Mary’s College Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA).

Patrick Pierce, professor of political science, proposed ways for gay rights policies to change over time in favor of the LGBTQ community. The public is very involved in these policies and change will happen more and more with generation replacement and awareness to the problem of redistricting, he said.

“Older, more culturally conservative people leave the population, [and] younger, more culturally liberal folks enter the political population,” he said. “Nobody will tell you in the media that a big problem has to do with redistricting.

“Republicans who are going to hold more culturally conservative positions, more restrictive positions with gay rights policies – they have been controlling state legislatures. They can redraw the district lines for state legislative districts.”

Following Pierce, justice education professor Adrienne Lyles Chockley said the LGBTQ community had great successes in the courts in 2013, and even more major issues are being discussed in the state-level courts right now.

“Perhaps the biggest success is the movement in gay marriage,” she said. “Here are the main areas [in which] there is some major stuff happening: family law, association and civil participation, equal benefits, public education and crime and punishment.”  

Catherine Pittman, clinical psychologist and psychology professor, said there are ways to make change on the city level, raising awareness to rights that LGBTQ individuals.

 “The truth is, there are a lot of older people who think it’s already against the law to do things that hurt the LGBT community,” she said. “There is an organization called the South Bend Human Rights Commission … [that is] empowered to fight discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color and family status.

“They are not empowered against discrimination against gay or transgender people.”

Pittman said the possibility for change exists in the local community, and the South Bend LGBTQ community needed civil rights but struggled to prove that there was a local problem with discrimination.

“The opposition would say that people are looking for special rights, and there is no evidence that there’s even a problem,” she said. “After about eight years, we finally got the South Bend City Council to pass a law that says if a person is discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, they are allowed to go to the human rights commission and ask for help if it has to do with employment, public accommodations, education and housing.”

Communication studies professor Marne Austin, said interpersonal communicatio  and taking a holistic approach to working through all perspectives articulated is crucial to making shifts in culture.

“The jargon and the rhetoric of “coming out” is decades old now, but this idea of coming out of the closet is so grounded in heteronormativity,” she said. “I and several scholars have tried to reclaim the term of “coming out”‘ to “inviting in”.

 “We can have interpersonal instances of social justice just by talking to people. we can actually make changes in their lives.”

Contact Alaina Anderson at aander02@saintmarys.edu