Raghavan addresses LGBT issues

Gautam Raghavan, associate director of public engagement and the LGBT Liasion to The White House, left, speaks on the advancement of LGBT affairs during “Conversation and Dessert” Monday as Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, looks on. || Jordie Oetken/The News

Gautam Raghavan, associate director of public engagement and the LGBT Liasion to The White House, left, speaks on the advancement of LGBT affairs during “Conversation and Dessert” Monday as Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, looks on. || Jordie Oetken/The News

Alliance, LGBT programming and Student Affairs collaboratively sponsored an event called “Conversation and Dessert” in the small Ballroom with Gautam Raghavan, Associate Director of Public Engagement and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Liaison to The White House.

Raghavan and Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, conversed on Monday in front of a group of students, faculty, staff and Murray residents.  Higginson asked Raghavan several questions regarding LGBT issues and the progress made on them.

Shamike Stiles, Alliance president, attended the event on Monday and said she was pleased with the types of questions Raghavan responded to.

“The conversation was very informative,” she said. “I believe he touched on many important subjects.”

She said she thought it was important for Murray State students to hear  Raghavan, since he was openly gay and a deputy White House liaison for the Department of Defense.

“Not only was he able to come out in the work place but that didn’t stigmatize his opportunities in the White House,” Stiles said. “You don’t often hear about White House officials being openly gay. I hope that allowed our students to see that you can advances in a career and live an honest life without the fears of being held back because of being out.”

Stiles said she was very proud to see so many Allies of the Alliance and LGBT services there.

Raghavan responded to questions about the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy the president repealed in 2011, same sex marriage, bullying and the progress America has made on such issues.

DADT, the former U.S. policy on homosexuals serving in the military, was repealed by president Obama on September 20, of last year. Raghavan mentioned a recent study which reported how the appeal has affected the country.

“It’s been a year and nothing has happened, which is exactly what we predicted would happen. But on a whole it has been relatively smooth and a non-issue,” Raghavan said.

Raghavan was also asked if progress has been made on the issue of same sex marriage. Though he said progress has been made, it still needs some work.

When asked about the issue of general bullying and harassment, Raghavan said most of the progress has been made by courageous people who speak their minds.

“A lot of progress was made because of those who spoke up and protested, and by those who make people aware of discrimination by telling stories of their own personal experiences” Raghavan said.

After Higginson had finished her questions, the floor was opened to the audience to ask their own.

About 10 audience members raised their hands to ask questions regarding subjects such as LGBT laws, LGBT workers in the White House and the importance of having LGBT resource centers at universities.

Story by Alex Berg, Staff writer