While the issue is being debated in legislatures and courts around the country, viewpoints clashed on the issue of gay marriage at a forum held by the College Republicans in the BSLC building on Monday.
Patrick Guerriero, a guest speaker and Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican caucus, supported the legalization of gay marriage as a political and constitutional necessity. Manuel Lopez, a doctoral student in the Committee on Social Thought, argued against gay marriage on the basis of its consequences for the institution of marriage in American culture.
As the first speaker, Guerriero distinguished between the civil and religious acts of marriage, asserting his support for the legalization of civil marriage for gay couples. "As a libertarian and a conservative, I've always believed that people should make their own choices," Guerriero said.
He believes the U.S. Constitution does not dictate the gender of an individual's marriage partner. He opposes the idea of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and said the Constitution should only be amended to expand rights, not limit them.
Lopez countered Guerriero's comments by stating that "the potential of reproduction signifies something unique between a man and a woman." He elaborated on the connection between procreation and marriage, saying that marriage was at least partially intended for the creation of a family and for the stabilization of society.
According to Lopez, if marriage were redefined as simply a union between two individuals, the institution would be more dedicated to the spouses' personal satisfaction than to any greater commitment to society.
This battle of sentiments, political and cultural, is playing out on a national scale, as court decisions move to legitimize gay unions in America, and state legislatures mobilize in response.
Last November, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex marriage, but did not immediately force the legislature to issue marriage licenses, instead opting for a 180-day stay "to permit the legislature to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion," according to The Washington Times. Earlier this month, the court upheld its decision and demanded that the marriage laws be changed within six months to account for gay and lesbian couples.
A constitutional convention recently held in Massachusetts, the state where Guerriero served as a congressman, attempted to create an amendment banning same-sex marriage but permitting civil unions between homosexual partners. The early drafts of the bill were met with resentment from both liberal and conservative pundits, essentially leaving the legislation in political limbo. The convention voted to reconvene in March to further discuss the topic.
In response to these developments in Massachusetts, Ohio's government, led by Governor Bob Taft, has enacted the most stringent ban on gay marriage to date in the United States. According to CNN.com, Taft said he feared same-sex couples married in Massachusetts trying to gain the legal advantages reserved for heterosexual unions in his state.
Guerriero said the bill recently passed in Ohio to ban gay marriage and deny benefits to same-sex couples was an "example of when legislators freak out and overreact to this issue."