Same-sex marriage sparks debate

by Stephanie Kudrle

A hot issue in the 2004 presidential election might not even exist in 10 years, said one University student.

Emily Souza, co-chairwoman of the Queer Student Cultural Center at the University, said she believes that once the current generation of University students is in power, same-sex marriage will be widely accepted.

But the issue of same-sex marriage was a highly controversial and political topic in the first half of 2004, when the Minnesota Legislature and U.S. Congress failed to pass amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. But the issue remains a part of the current election season.

B. David Galt, director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office, said he thinks the issue will have weight with voters.

“It’s unfortunate it’s become a major issue in the political campaigning, given issues of war, unemployment and depressed economy,” Galt said.

Part of the reason same-sex marriage is being brought up this season is to create a voter panic, he said.

Although neither President George W. Bush nor Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry are the ideal candidates when it comes to issues that are important to the gay community, Galt said, many GLBT Republicans aren’t supporting Bush’s re-election.

“It’s surprising and disturbing that same-sex marriage seems to have taken such a focal point on who’s going to be our next president,” he said.

For many, the debate isn’t over which candidate stands for what, it’s a question of civil rights.

Joel Flake, executive director for Students for Family Values, said he doesn’t feel homosexuals should be put on “an equal footing as heterosexuals.”

He said there is research to show that homosexuals are more likely to become pedophiles and contract AIDS.

The issue of same-sex marriage will have an impact on this election, Flake said, because people will decide for themselves how they feel about it.

But according to a Minnesota Daily poll published Monday, 36 percent of undergraduate students at the University consider same-sex marriage a very important issue in this election.

University political science professor Bill Flanigan said same-sex marriage will not likely change a voter’s mind at this stage of the campaign.

“It’s one of the issues Republicans can use to appeal to their conservative base, so they’ll keep mentioning it,” he said. “But most have already decided how they feel about it.”

Flanigan said this isn’t a good issue for Democrats to campaign on, because they don’t want to risk alienating their base.

“They look at the polls and see civil unions are a popular position,” he said. “They avoid the word ‘marriage’ because more people are opposed to same-sex marriage than support it.”

Souza said many people have distorted views about the gay community.

“Many people I talk to don’t even realize gay marriage isn’t legal,” she said. “It feels like something that should have been taken care of in the civil rights movement.”

She said candidates’ stances on same-sex marriage are important to the gay community.

This spring, the State House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The Senate did not pass the amendment, preventing it from appearing on November’s ballot.

Bush brought attention to the issue this summer when he announced his support for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The amendment did not pass.