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Gay rights: More than just marriage

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Issues of social justice are far too important to be deadlocked in semantics. When people hear “gay marriage,” many immediately close their minds and hearts to the overall discussion of gay rights because this single issue is the deal-breaker.

As a gay Notre Dame alumnus, I am incredibly proud of my alma mater for its steadfast commitment and recent progress in bringing the dialogue of gay rights to campus. It is only through this ongoing civil and educational dialogue that all the other, pertinent issues of gay rights get the discussion they deserve.

First, there is the issue of gay marriage. For many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples, marriage is not about undermining religious doctrine but rather about gaining access to thousands of civil benefits that legally protect and honor their committed union. While moralists claim that this goes against God, I fail to see a clearer example of morality than two people solidifying their bond through legal and spiritual mechanisms. I agree with Andrew Nessi in his Monday, Oct. 3 letter in which he says that “religious justifications for discrimination are never adequate.”

While this issue is important, however, gay rights are more than just rights to marriage. Gay rights include the issue of basic, civil entitlements like receiving health care benefits from employers for domestic partnerships and civil unions. Gay rights include the issue of hate crimes and the need for specific legislation that protects people of any sexual orientation from falling victim to terrorists and other hate-driven criminals. Gay rights include the ability of loving and committed couples the opportunity to adopt a children who are in desperate need of a home.

The bottom line is that the issue of gay rights continues to be an issue because our country has not yet achieved full equality for all of its citizens. Millions of Americans, including some at Notre Dame, continue to be denied basic privileges and rights based on their sexual orientation. The conversation about gay rights must include more than just the marriage issue because there is plenty more at stake.

I am proud of Notre Dame for bringing more discussion on the various issues of gay rights to campus, thereby opening minds and raising awareness. Through The Observer or through other venues, I encourage such sustained and courageous dialogue to continue.

Ken Seifert


Oct. 3