U panel debates same-sex marriage, GLBT rights

Hayley Odom

A debate about redefining a societal institution sparked controversy Thursday night at the University.

A group of five panelists met on campus to discuss same-sex marriage before a group of more than 70 staff, faculty, students and community members.

Since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court required the state to recognize same-sex couples’ right to marry last fall, discussion of same-sex marriage has caused an outcry in much of the country, said moderator Dale Carpenter, a University law professor.

“Homosexuality is not biologically destined. That’s not how nature made them,” said senior Martin Andrade, a panelist and president of Students for Family Values. “Because of that, it’s not a civil rights issue.”

Other panelists disagreed with Andrade’s statement.

Panelist Laura Smidzik of Rainbow Families said more than 1,000 legal, social and other rights come with marriage. She said she cannot receive any of those rights because her partner is female.

“We’re part of the fabric of society, and they can’t eliminate us because we’re already here,” she said.

Panelist Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, agreed that not allowing marriage between same-sex couples is discriminatory.

“This is about denying people access to certain things and there’s no way around that.”

Other panelists included Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard, who both favor banning same-sex marriage.

Brigid Gross, a neuroscience department staff member, attended the event.

She said she believes denying same-sex couples the right to marry is discriminatory because there are people who have the option to marry and people who don’t.

“It should certainly be an option,” she said. “It’s available to some, but not all, which is fairly ridiculous as far as I’m concerned.”

The Queer Graduate and Professional Student Association sponsored the debate to encourage community discussion.

“We don’t have a particular stance on this issue, but it is an issue for (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) grad students because some do have children or are living with partners,” said Sarah Rodems, co-facilitator for the association.

Sophomore Mark Foster attended the Toni McNaron Distinguished Lecture in Arts and Culture on Wednesday night to hear author Armistead Maupin speak about GLBT issues.

“Civil unions between same-sex partners has strong implications for inequality,” he said. “It shows heterosexual bias.”

Foster said he also felt more research should be done at the University in terms of possible affirmative action for GLBT students.

“The University includes sexual orientation in its discrimination clause, but it is never regarded as an underrepresented group,” he said.

“(GLBT) is not in affirmative action and I wonder if that’s been active dialogue at the University.”