Representatives from both the UC Republicans and the UC Democrats debated the pros and cons of gay marriage last Tuesday—with the exchange yielding some surprising results. Campus Republicans argued that not only gay marriage laws, but straight marriage laws as well, should be kept out of law books.
More than 70 students attended the event, held in the Bartlett trophy room at 7p.m.
Fourth-year Bridgett Fahey and graduate student Stephen Richer represented the Democrats. The younger duo of second-years Joseph Dozier and Rory Tolan represented the Republicans.
“States may not legitimately decide who may marry whom,” Dozier said, to the surprise of the Democrats, who had expected a traditional “values” argument.
The benefits that come from being married, such as the ability to visit one’s partner in the hospital, should be available to all couples, Dozier said. Rather than allowing gay couples to get married, states should eliminate marriage licenses and allow couples to make the contracts on their own, he said, making an argument associated more with libertarian values than Republican ones.
“I believe if you stand for equality you stand for our position,” Dozier said.
For their part, the Democrats said that the government should keep marriage laws but let gay couples benefit from them. Richer cited a study that found 1,049 laws affected by marital status as an example of unequal benefits given to straight but not homosexual couples.
Laws on topics ranging from tax benefits to whom obtains custody of children if one parent dies are not given to gay couples because they are prohibited from being legally married.
“In short, marriage is kind of a big deal,” Richer said in his opening statement.
The Democrats also said that gay couples are just as loyal and normal as are heterosexuals.
In response to the Republicans, Fahey said that their libertarian idea of scrapping marriage laws would lead to prohibitive legal fees for couples who would have to obtain lawyers to make contracts that are now automatic with marriage. “It’s not as easy as they’re making it seem,” Fahey said in her rebuttal.
The government could even push homophobic people toward tolerance by allowing gay couples to marry, Fahey said. “The state should lead by example,” she said.
After Fahey finished her rebuttal and sat down, Tolan stood to offer his own. “Well, thank you, Bridgette. I don’t think you were listening at all,” he said. States shouldn’t increase tolerance by changing intolerant laws that don’t allow gay marriage; they should get rid of marriage laws altogether, Tolan said.
“The government is not to be the arbiter of culture,” Tolan said, echoing his libertarian argument. “I don’t need the government to tell me how to pursue happiness,” he said. “I’m sorry if you do.”
Richer, on the side of the Democrats, said in an interview after the debate that he appreciated that the Republicans did not use homophobic arguments or mimic mainstream anti-gay marriage arguments.
“It was refreshing,” he said.