In light of an upcoming Supreme Court hearing, Richmond College and LGBT Programming held a marriage equality forum, Put a Ring On It last week at Richmond Residential College.
The group discussed an announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying it would hear U.S. v. Windsor. The court will hear oral arguments March 27 concerning the Defense of Marriage Act and will likely issue a decision in the case by the end of June.
Currently, there are numerous lawsuits challenging Section 3 of DOMA, which denies legally married same-sex couples access to the 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.
The LGBT forum discussed multiple aspects of marriage equality including historical, religious and political components. The discussion was led by three panel members and was open to all who attended the event.
The panel members included Ann Beck, associate professor of Humanities and Fine Arts, Travis Rupprecht, political science student and guest speaker Mo Baxley.
Baxley is the former executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry and a former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She has worked in the labor and civil rights movements primarily on the East Coast and is a long-term leader in the LGBT community. She is best known for leading the efforts to pass New Hampshire’s gay rights and marriage equality laws.
Both liberal and conservative constituents were represented at the forum.
John Eads, senior from Somerset, Ky., said he believes the forum was a success, as it avoided a potentially slanderous altercation.
“Although I believe the forum was somewhat one-sided, as it appeared that most people there supported gay marriage, I think it went well,” Eads said.
Beck began the discussion in support of marriage equality by citing historical trials and constitutional laws, including a reference to DOMA.
Beck said she agrees with the First Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Boston, saying DOMA violates due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution when it requires a married surviving spouse of the same sex to pay a different amount of estate tax than a legally married surviving spouse who is heterosexual.
“When a government provides a benefit to one person over another, the reason for that decision must be rational and, in the case of denial of benefits on the account of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or citizenship and other factors, that rational basis has to be compelling,” Beck said.
In his rebuttal, Rupprecht began by encouraging listeners to find their own definition of marriage. He continued by proclaiming his definition with biblical and constitutional support.
“I object to homosexual marriage because marriage was defined when God brought Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden,” Rupperecht said. “Though the Bible is very adamant on the picture of marriage, the U.S. Constitution, which is the law of the land, is silent.”
He said the 10th Amendment says anything that has not been discussed or put in the Constitution is left up to the states or the people directly.
“Because this amendment says the states or the people should be dealing with marriage in definitions, I oppose the ninth circuit court’s ruling that the California state constitutional amendment is unconstitutional,” Rupperecht said.
In response to Rupperecht, Baxley spoke on behalf of her home state of New Hampshire, the first state in the country to pass marriage equality legislatively without ever having a court case on the issue.
“Public opinion on this issue moves in one direction; there is nobody who was supporting marriage equality five years ago who is not supporting it today,” Baxley said. “History is clearly on our side.”
Baxley supported her opinion once more by saying there are nine states in the country supporting marriage equality. She also referenced six national poles showing the majority of Americans support marriage equality.
After the three panelists finished supporting their claims, they took questions and comments from several audience members. John Eads, senior, gave his empirical analysis.
“I think the side for gay marriage had a better argument, simply because most faculty with a wealth of knowledge seemed to support (it),” Eads said. “The only people who opposed gay marriage did not appear to have solid secular arguments against (its) legality.”
Story by Alex Berg, Staff writer.