In a heated debate that drew both laughter and groans from an audience of more than 40, the Cornell Democrats and the Cornell Republicans faced off Thursday evening in Uris Hall to argue about gay rights and women's abortion rights.
Republican Alex Pruce ’13 argued that because marriage is not “necessarily a religious institution as much as one of necessity to propagate society,” gay marriage does not “serve the interests of society.”
Throughout the debate, the Republicans cited tradition as the platform for their arguments.
“Historically, we’ve only had heterosexual marriages, but is it a right to have a homosexual marriage? No. We cannot have bestial marriages. We cannot have a marriage to oneself,” said Pruce, who explained that he is personally in favor of gay rights but took a position against gay marriage for the purpose of creating a lively debate. “There is no fundamental right to homosexual marriage” or heterosexual marriage, he said.
Democrat Tony Montgomery ’13 applied Pruce’s rationale to other situations.
“Marriage is an old and sacred institution, but guess what? So was slavery,” Montgomery said. “If we didn’t let black people get married, we’d save costs there, too.”
While Republicans said marriage is necessary to continue society, Montgomery responded that if reproduction is the sole purpose of marriage, “then infertile couples should not be allowed to marry.”
Democrat Terry Moynihan ’11 encouraged audience members to challenge the past.
“The argument that we should keep marriage defined the way it is is preposterous. We need a federal overturning of state precedents,” he said.
However, Republicans said that since marriage is a public act, it is necessary to consider society as a whole in deciding to recognize gay marriage.
The two sides further questioned whether some agencies should prohibit gay couples from adoption.
“Right now in the U.S., there are 100,000 children waiting to be adopted,” Montgomery said. “There are a shit ton of kids out there, and the problem is trying to place them. When we’re putting these restrictions on who can adopt who, we’re hurting society.”
The Republicans responded by addressing what they called the emotional and psychological effects of growing up with parents of one sex, claiming women raised without mothers lack “emotional security.”
Republican Megan Tubb ’13 added that with two million opposite-sex couples looking to adopt children, there is no need for same-sex couples to decrease the number of children without homes.
The rights of gay couples were not the only subjects of disagreement at Thursday’s debate.
The Republicans argued against the use of abortions on both moral and economic grounds.
“If life is not a right worth protecting, then what is? What are we doing for the most vulnerable in our society?” Tubb said.
Furthermore, Pruce said abortion poses an economic burden to the government.
“When you have rising Social Security costs, when you have a rising deficit, when you look at the last 35 years, can you say that they were not partially made up by abortion?” Pruce said.
In response, the Democrats argued that the government should not have the authority to take away a woman’s right to abortion, especially in the case of high-risk pregnancies.
However, Tubb retorted that at least one human life is lost for every abortion, even if the mother does not die,
Democrat Jonathan Westman ’13 disagreed.
“So if the mother and the child will both die, we should just let them both die?” he said.
The two sides moved on to debate whether Planned Parenthood should receive government funding.
While the Republicans said Planned Parenthood was “wasteful” and “coerced women into abortions” — with Pruce comparing the organization to ACORN, a non-government organization that was shut down in 2010 amid nationwide controversy — the Democrats pointed to the variety of services the organization offers, which include prenatal care, providing contraceptives and STD testing.
“Some of you guys may have gotten the impression listening to these guys that Planned Parenthood is an abortion clinic,” Westman said. “Well, it sort of is, but 97-percent of funding goes to non-abortion services.”
The debate was moderated by Judah Bellin ’12, who is also a columnist for The Sun.
Correction: An earlier version of this article failed to report that Alex Pruce '13, who argued against gay marriage in the debate, personally supports gay rights. He said he made the statements above, which are reported accurately, for the purpose of creating a lively debate.