Students join conversation about Indiana gay marriage ruling
Lesley Stevenson | Monday, September 29, 2014
The Supreme Court convened privately Monday to determine whether it will hear a case appealing the Sept. 4 decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The Justices are considering seven cases from five different states, including Indiana, and can choose to hear all, none or some of the appeals. They could announce their decision as early as this week, but Notre Dame students on both sides of the aisle say the campus response to the appeal has been limited and languid.
“I think it’s a hard thing for people to talk about, which I understand, but I think we as a community need to, despite your religious background or your beliefs on the issues, we need to talk about them more in an open space so it’s not just a thing we talk about only behind closed doors,” freshman Jake Maginn, a member of PrismND, said.
For those supporting the appellate court’s initial ruling, the excitement of the Sept. 4 decision was short-lived — the court approved a stay on same-sex marriages nine days later, at the request of Indiana’s attorney general. The stay will remain in effect until the Supreme Court either hears the case and issues a new ruling or refuses to hear the case, leaving the appellate court’s ruling in place. Indiana has asked the Supreme Court to take on the issue and decide whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in all 50 states, according to Associated Press reports.
Emily Kirkegaard is a coordinator for GlassND, the subcommittee of the Graduate Student Union (GSU) concerned with LGBTQ issues. She said graduate students met the appellate court’s initial ruling with deflated enthusiasm, and many had been “tensely waiting” the Supreme Court’s final decision.
“There was not much of a celebration for the recent ruling. There was initially some buzz about it on social media and everyone was very excited and happy but the stay in Indiana came so quickly that there wasn’t nearly the same excited celebration,” Kirkegaard said.
Maginn, who favors legalization of same-sex marriage, said he was pleased to read the opinion penned by the appellate court’s Judge Richard Posner, a well-known conservative appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Mangin said Posner found holes in the state’s argument and used sarcasm to expose these flaws.
“[Posner] talked about how in Indiana, first cousins over the age of 65 are legally allowed to marry because the idea is that they can’t have biological children,” Maginn said. “The fact that the argument seems to put forth that homosexual couples aren’t as capable of raising children as first cousins to me is absurd.”
“Not only that, in Indiana gay couples are allowed to adopt, so if the institution of marriage is to create an environment where children can effectively and fruitfully grow, then I don’t think it makes any sense to let a homosexual couple adopt children but not be married,” Maginn said.
Graduate student Tiernan Kane said it was “incumbent” on the Supreme Court to hear Indiana’s case. He disagreed with Posner’s opinion, saying it misused precedent and demonstrated both “flippancy” and a lack of understanding of the state’s case.
“On reading it, my first impression is I was sorry to see that [Posner] seemed to have approached this in a similar way to the way he approached the Notre Dame … case [against the Department of Health and Human Services] earlier this year,” Kane said. “It doesn’t appear from the decision that he’s taken the time to understand the opposing point of view.”
Kane founded and serves as a leader of Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), a group that last week gained approval from the Club Coordination Council (CCC). He said extreme points of view on both sides often stifle the discussion of marriage on campus, something SCOP experienced when it first applied for club status in the spring.
“Particularly regarding Posner, but also I think marriage [debates in general], you don’t hear a lot about it, and I think that’s in part because of the fear of the reaction that greeted SCOP when it tried to raise this point of view,” Kane said. “There was an immediate accusation made by several hundred students, not the majority of students, but several hundred to say this is a position that would be wrongly discriminatory.”
Junior SCOP member Alexandra DeSanctis said the court cases and general dialogue about marriage reflect “a fundamental misunderstanding of what the debate is.” She said she believes marriage as an institution must be “permanent,” “exclusive” and “life-giving.”
“I think if you understand marriage as having these three characteristics, you see that it naturally points to being between a man and a woman, and I think you can see that regardless of your religion, just through common sense and through reason,” DeSanctis said. “… The state cares about its future citizens and I think defining marriage as between a man and a woman is best for children and therefore best for the state.”
Graduate student Greg Cousins, a member of GlassND, said the Notre Dame community should encourage discussion over different ideologies of marriage in spite of potential clashes between traditional and non-traditional views.
“People should talk about it even if people disagree with the ruling,” he said. “There should be some open discussion, especially in a very well-renowned University. This should be a place of friendly discourse even if there are differing opinions, and I don’t think there has been enough of that.”
Tim Bradley, a junior member of SCOP, said students supporting the traditional idea of marriage often face criticism for refusing to change their views despite pressure from opposing perspectives.
“For some people who think that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, it’s easy for them to be afraid to speak their mind because there’s a risk of being labeled a bigot or a homophobe or being told you’re on the wrong side of history, and those are hard things for someone to hear,” Bradley said.
Students’ hesitancy to speak out in fear of criticism can make the discussion of marriage appear lopsided, Bradley said.
“On the surface one would think that most students are in favor of redefining marriage because that’s the impression given in the media but I don’t think that that’s true,” he said. “I think a lot of people are silent on the issue.”
Senior Chris Weber, a PrismND member, said he hopes many who argue for traditional marriage on religious grounds will start to reconsider their beliefs, as the Church has done in the past.
“I think there are some in the church community who believe with time this will probably evolve, our idea of marriage will evolve,” Weber said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be within the next decade or my lifetime, but I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Catholic Church evolved their thoughts on this issue just as they evolved their thoughts on evolution or on heliocentrism.”
Cousins said Notre Dame has a unique opportunity as a Catholic institution to foster greater dialogue and encourage open discussion.
“The University and the University administration shouldn’t be afraid of encouraging conversation about it because silence is not a very good defense of their position,” he said. “It shouldn’t be something that’s kept hush-hush.
“I think it would be very progressive of them to encourage this sort of discussion officially and hopefully we will see some of that.”