Leaders of the gay community on campus expressed distress about
President Bush’s announcement last week in support of a
proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, saying
they hope the judicial branch will uphold the rights of gay
Kelly Garrett, assistant director of the University’s
Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, said gay
marriage has become more of a forefront issue since the
Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in November that banning gay
marriage is inconsistent with the state constitution.
But Garret said she thinks the judicial branch has been
instrumental in reversing discriminatory practices.
“Throughout history, judges have been called upon to help
resolve discriminatory practices, (as in) Brown v. Board of
Education, and I’m sure that many people during that time
period viewed certain decisions by judges in favor of desegregation
as ‘too liberal,’ ” Garrett said.
Genevieve Vose, co-chair of OUTlaws, a group for gay Law School
students, said the job of the courts is to protect persecuted
minorities who otherwise are not protected in the political
“That isn’t limited to sexual orientation — if
we didn’t have brave courts, this country wouldn’t have
even begun to combat racial and gender inequality,” said
Vose, a Law School student.
Bush said in a speech last Tuesday that an amendment was needed
“to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed
“Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to
send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our
Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and
woman as husband and wife,” he said.
Bush added that states should be left the ability to define
other legal arrangements for gay couples.
Other University students also expressed strong views about the
issue of gay marriage and a constitutional amendment.
“I think an amendment like that is unnecessary. It is none
of the government’s business to take away people’s
rights to choose who to get married to,” said LSA sophomore
David Morley, also an LSA sophomore, said the decision about who
has marriage rights should be left up to the individual.
“If a priest doesn’t want to marry a couple based on
their religious beliefs outlawing same-sex marriage, then that
should be okay, and the couple can go to another priest or cleric
or official who does believe in gay marriage,” he said.
One student, Kinesiology junior Hallie Farber, said the decision
on gay marriage should not be controlled by the government, but
that the public should have more say.
“I think there should be a vote on it so that the decision
on gay marriage truly represents what the public wants,” she
Garrett said if Massachusetts does allow gay marriages, then
same-sex couples will have the opportunity to challenge the
constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act under the
Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution.
The DOMA allows states to decide whether to recognize same-sex
marriages, but according to the constitutional clause, states have
to recognize the marriage laws of other states.
“By passing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to
define marriage, Bush and Congress will prevent challenges to DOMA
and also prevent individual states from making their own decisions
about same-sex marriage,” Garrett said.
Brian Hull, co-chair of the Michigan Student Assembly’s
LGBT Commission, said San Fransisco’s decision to issue
marriage licenses to gay couples was also a factor in Bush’s
“I think he wanted to wait until later in his re-election
campaign to bring it up, but the actions of the city of San
Francisco forced him to act sooner than he wanted to,” said
Hull, an LSA junior.
Additionally, Bush mentioned “activist judges”
several times in his speech.
Vose said “activism” is a term that conservatives
use every time a court makes a controversial decision.
Garrett said she thinks Bush feels that the views of these
“activist judges” are not representative of the views
of the general population.
Both Vose and Garrett said the U.S. Supreme Court’s
Lawrence v. Texas decision last year may also have been another
court ruling that prompted Bush’s use of the word
“activism.” That court decision struck down sodomy laws
Garrett said many conservatives feel the ruling opened the door
for gay marriage. “When sodomy was illegal, then that kept
gay marriage illegal. Now sodomy laws are no longer a
factor,” she said.
Garrett, Vose and Hull said their organizations do not currently
have any events planned to promote discussion of or show opposition
to Bush’s proposed amendment, but that is likely to change as
the year progresses.
Hull said the LGBT Commission will address the issue of gay
marriages at its rally at the end of Queer Visibility Week, to be
held on March 26.