by Jess Hoogendoorn
The country has taken two steps forward and one step back, said senior Brigid Kelly, one of the organizers of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) march that protested the passage of a proposition banning same-sex marriage in California.
“The night before, we elected our first African-American president and the next day we [realized a law had passed] that took away all these rights for gays,” Kelly said.
Students circled the campus mall carrying posters and chanting “two, four, six, eight, love does not discriminate.” GSA members wore matching green shirts they decorated themselves that read “H8 Prop8.”
Proposition 8, passed by California voters, proposed changing that state’s constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, stating that only marriage between a man and a woman should be recognized.
Proposition 8 implies that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are not equal to heterosexuals, and that they are second-class citizens, said senior Robin Barletta, GSA vice president.
“It’s a discriminating ban that people shouldn’t have been voting on,” she said. “We need to show that we can come together and say this is not acceptable.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, civil rights groups, churches and local governments have already filed lawsuits asking courts to declare the constitutional revision illegal. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he hopes and expects the California high court to reject Proposition 8.
“I just think it’s awful [that it was passed],” said sophomore Leeann Sinpatanasakul. “I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it. It’s a step backward, especially in such a liberal state. [Getting same-sex marriage passed] will happen one day. Nov. 4 just wasn’t our day.”
GSA members set up a table and asked students to sign petitions supporting same-sex marriage. The petitions, which have more than 250 signatures, will be sent to the governors of several states, including New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, according to Barletta.
When some people came up to the tables and learned about Proposition 8, they were surprised because they thought same-sex marriage was legal in California, said senior Jess Bills, GSA president.
“They didn’t realize it had been overturned,” she said. “Part of our reason [for protesting], besides the obvious, is to raise awareness. People who don’t study politics or aren’t politically aware don’t know this is going on. And knowledge is the first step.”
Rider students are not the only ones protesting the recent ban. Thousands of people took to the streets in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and San Diego on different occasions since the ban was approved. Ithaca College and Cornell University formed a joint protest with 250 in attendance. According to The Ithaca Journal, protestors arrived with signs that read “don’t be a gaycist” and “you can’t amend love.”
Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Carlow University also organized a collective protest of 450 people. Although there were no large rallies at Princeton University, a student said he planned to organize a satirical campaign that would ban freshmen from walking on sidewalks to parallel the injustice of the proposition, according to The Daily Princetonian.
“Some people ask us, ‘Why would you protest here if it happened in California?’” Bills said. “If you don’t take a stand, you can’t make a change. We finally have the chance to take a stand.”
Kelly agreed and said people need to realize that they shouldn’t take their rights for granted.
She said everyone should work toward change and improvements.
“Even though we live in a state that has civil unions, I hope that [people] see we’re not happy that we can’t use the word marriage,” Kelly said. “Even though we appreciate what we have in this state, and I love being in New Jersey, we want more.”
However, some proponents of the same-sex marriage ban argue “Proposition 8 is about preserving marriage; it’s not an attack on the gay lifestyle,” according to a California voter guide. Allegedly, under Proposition 8, unmarried partners will have the same rights, protections and benefits as married spouses.
Although California’s new ban has stirred up discussion, the debate over same-sex marriage in California has gone back and forth since 2000. In March of 2000, Proposition 22 stated that California law only recognized marriage between a man and woman, according to the voter guide.
In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution. The court held that individuals of the same sex have the right to marry. Proposition 8 has overturned this decision.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the issue is whether or not Proposition 8 is a sweeping revision of the state constitution. Another question the San Francisco Chronicle brought up is whether the “scope of minority group’s rights in California would be decided by the voters.”
Sophomore Joanna Grillo is not a GSA member but signed the petition in support of same-sex marriage.
“I think that you’re born gay and no love should be discriminated against,” she said.