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Brown speaks on gays, demands human rights

Angela Saoud | Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Human Rights Watch deputy program director Widney Brown lectured in Saint Mary’s Stapleton Lounge Tuesday night on the topic “Equality for All? Sexual Orientation and Human Rights.” Speaking to a crowded audience, Brown focused her discussion on the basic goals of Human Rights Watch.”At Human Rights Watch, we believe that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that people should not be excluded from activities, like, marriage for example, based upon their sexual orientation,” Brown said. “And although this sounds like a simple, blanket statement, you’d be surprised how often this belief is violated.”Brown, who worked at Human Rights Watch since the late 1990s, shared research she had completed looking into the attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people.”We interviewed LGBT students in rural areas, and in bigger cities like New York and San Francisco, and essentially we found the same things happening,” she said. “When kids tell me school is fine, and I ask them what fine is, and they say it’s fine because they usually can just skip gym class, or they have an English teacher who lets them hide in her room, everything is not fine.”Students who face problems like these are often told to repress their identity because it is different from the norm, Brown said. Although Brown encourages the freedom of expression, she said it is often something LGBT people are told to suppress. After fielding questions from the audience, Brown turned her attention to gay marriage and the recent advancements made in that area. Despite the backlash that has occurred, Brown said a step forward is a step in the right direction.”The right to marriage is something that all people need and should have,” she said. “There are currently 347 laws in my home state of New York that allow married people benefits that unmarried people do not have. When you’re telling gay and lesbian people they can’t get married, you’re denying them those benefits even if they should be entitled to them.” Brown’s lecture was the first in a three-day lecture series in honor of Women’s History Month. Junior Sara Tallman will lecture today at 4:30 p.m. in Welsh Parlor, Haggar College Center. She will speak on “The Legal and Religious Debate Over Same Sex Marriage.” On Thursday, Carolina Monsivais will have a poetry reading at 7 p.m. in the west wing of the Noble Family Dining Hall.