From the Supreme Court to Facebook profile pictures, the debate on marriage equality has spread across the nation. The Supreme Court heard testimony regarding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act March 26 and 27 respectively. The largest discussion focuses on whether to allow gay couples to receive the same federal benefits that straight couples do, if they are legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. This would reverse the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Students on LCCC’s campus fall into a broad range, from those who don’t care one way or the other, to those who are actively campaigning for marriage equality in Ohio.
Music major Cody Vincent represented a common student view on marriage equality. “It doesn’t affect me, so whatever,” said Vincent. Vincent said his aunt and her girlfriend live in California, but haven’t expressed an interest in marriage, though his opinion might change if they decide to get married.
Bobby Sergent, president of PRIDE Club, said he and his club members have been collecting signatures to get marriage equality on the ballot for Ohio. The club, which has around 10-15 members, made it their goal to collect at least 500 signatures for the statewide movement; a total of 500,000 signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot. The issue would recognize marriage between two consenting adults regardless of gender, but would not force different religious affiliations to perform same-sex unions if they didn’t agree with it. Currently PRIDE has collected 150 signatures towards their 500-signature goal, but Sergent aims to get as many as he can to support the movement.
“Our goal is to make sure all couples receive the same equal rights, protection and benefits under the law,” said Sergent. “It’s also about protecting families.”
Same-sex couples with children, either through adoption or one person’s biological child, can’t both be considered parents of the child legally. According to groups such as Freedom to Marry, in the event of the legal parent’s death, the partner doesn’t automatically assume parental rights of the child.
Other concerns are for health reasons, since a partner in a same-sex union isn’t automatically considered next of kin. In the event of hospitalization or illness, one member of the couple may be denied the right to visit the other, or may have no say in emergency medical decisions.
A story that gained national attention for the issue was when 83-year-old Edith Windsor was required to pay more than $360,000 in inheritance taxes after the death of her partner Thea Spyer. Windsor and Spyer were legally married in Canada in 2007, but had been together for more than 40 years. Though their home state of New York recognized the Canadian union, the federal government did not. Everything Spyer left to Windsor after her death was left to a close friend, in the U. S. government’s eyes, not to a spouse. Windsor successfully sued the United States in 2010, arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
Only nine states in the country recognize same-sex unions, but even same-sex couples in those states aren’t recognized by the federal government for benefits such as insurance, inheritance and parental rights. It is something Sergent wants to see changed soon.
“Everyone should be allowed to marry the person they love,” said Sergent. He and the club are putting together a ‘NOH8’ photo shoot event April 18 to gather further support in their mission for marriage equality.