Same-sex marriage and the GLBTQ community: students weigh in

Sarah Harris

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of two same-sex marriage laws: the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman and denies federal benefits to same sex couples, as well as Proposition 8, or California’s state law banning gay marriage.

It’s been a decade since the U.S. Supreme Court revisited the controversial issue. The decade also represents a shift in perspectives. In 2001, 57 percent of Americans were against same-sex marriage. Today, 44 percent are opposed, meaning more than half the population believes in equal rights for the gay population according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Perspectives can largely be divided among generational lines. In the same study, younger generations express higher levels of support for same-sex marriage. Millennials, or those born between 1982 and 2002, are more than twice as likely to be in favor of it than those born between 1925 and 1942.

Although Hamden is 3,000 miles from California, and a five-hour drive from Washington D.C., the generational shift on same-sex marriage and the issues this topic raises is felt campus-wide. It seems most students at Quinnipiac are accepting of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning students and community, but approach it from varying perspectives. And some hope to see Quinnipiac recognize the GLBTQ community more by creating a specific space for them to go.

Junior Eddie Stubbs is a member of Delta Tau Upsilon, Treasurer of Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Supporters, or G.L.A.S.S., and plans on taking his boyfriend to formal.

“I haven’t asked my fraternity brothers how they would feel about it, but I have attended parties with my boyfriend and my brothers seem to not have a problem with it,” Stubbs said.

QU 101 professor Jill McKeon has witnessed the generational shift over the last 10 years. She said she’s confident that the younger generation will support equality for years to come.

“Many years from now [they] will wonder why we resisted like we did with interracial marriage,” said McKeon, who has hope that her own marriage will be recognized federally, and will gain equal protection under the law.

Junior Theo Siggelakis said he thinks that although some students might not be comfortable with the concept, many are learning to respect other people’s decisions even if they don’t reflect their own choices or values. He’s a member of the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi, and said Greek life and Quinnipiac in general embraces other’s sexualities.

Mohammed Bey is the director of Multicultural Education, and works with student groups representing many different backgrounds and identities within the Office of Multicultural and Global Education (OMGE). He said that people are becoming more understanding and aware that ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t apply to sexality.

“When it comes to anything, really,” Bey said. “When it comes to race, for example, people are biracial. There are so many intersectionalities of identity, and the more we move forward and progress in our learning, the more we get to see that and embrace it.”

Bey added that although people may be quick to stereotype, he thinks it’s a natural instinct that can been changed with time.

“I think as human beings we are most comfortable with what we know and we want everything to look and feel the same way. Individuals have come a long way, as far as enough to come out and to be open and to be proud of it,” said Bey.

G.L.A.S.S., the only GLBTQ organization on campus, falls under OMGE. Other schools in Connecticut have entire offices dedicated to the GLBTQ community. For example, the University of Connecticut established the Rainbow Center in 1998, whose mission is to ‘diminish negative behaviors and attitudes towards the GLBTQ community through the use of education and advocacy,’ according to their website. They offer resources such as mentorship and discussion groups.

Senior Elizabeth Pinzon said she feels like diversity groups on campus ‘get the short end of the stick’ because there isn’t the place or space to be as outspoken as they’d like. She referenced UCONN’s Rainbow Center.

“I would love QU just to have a diversity center for people of different sexualities, races, creeds, to just come and hang out,” Pinzon said. “We are all part of one human race and prejudice and judgement come from ignorance. If our campus had a diversity center we could openly foster the education of our sometimes sheltered population and really show them some of the awesome cultures that quinnipiac has to offer.”

Although Quinnipiac doesn’t have this type of space, OMGE is in the beginning phases of creating “a safe space program,” said Bey, where students who want to talk about their sexuality can go.

Sophomore Alexander Kriz said he feels Quinnipiac is a very accepting community, but it’s more difficult to be openly gay on this campus because of it’s size.

“There are other schools, for example in Boston and New York City, where being gay isn’t an issue or a worry for anyone at all, simply because the gay population is so much bigger in cities,” Kriz said. “Personally, I have been out since before I came to this school, and I have not had one bad interaction during my two years here. Being open and being yourself is the most important thing in the world, anyone who doesn’t accept you for that isn’t worth your time whatsoever. Be who you want to be, and never back down from that.”

Pinzon added that it’s important to choose your friends wisely, and thinks that there is always a community on campus that will accept people for who they are, regardless of sexual preferences.

“It all comes down to the wise man Dr. Seuss; ‘Be who you are and say what you feel because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.’”