Seven months after same-sex marriage was legalized in New York State, the Cornell campus still has yet to see a same-sex wedding. Even so, religious leaders and gay rights advocates say, the legislation has already affected Cornell students and faculty.
The Rev. Clark West, chaplain at the Episcopal Church at Cornell University, will perform his first legal same-sex wedding for two Cornell alumni in a year.
“I will be ready, willing, and able to do it” when the time comes, he said. “[There are] a number of openly gay and lesbian students in our community, and if they ever decide to get married, I would be overjoyed at doing a wedding service if they would like me to.”
Student Assembly LGBTQ at-large representative Nate Treffeisen ’12 said he feels the legalization of gay marriage has greatly impacted him, both as a New Yorker and as a Cornell student.
“I’ve never been more proud to say I’m a New Yorker,” he said, referring to the bill’s enactment. “New York, being what it is, has really pushed the nation on all accounts in terms of liberties for the LGBT community to the forefront of what we should be working on as a country.”
Treffeisen said that being a college student at the time of the legislation was “exhilarating.”
“It put some realism into what a relationship could potentially be,” he said. “Before, in a college relationship, you could never see that end goal of getting married — not that the love couldn’t be there, but that the state wouldn’t recognize that kind of love.”
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Clarke, director of the Cornell United Religious Work, called Cornell a “receptive environment” for same-sex marriage.
“That is not to say there aren’t those who oppose [same-sex marriage], but I think the campus climate here has been more positively disposed to same-sex marriage than what might be the case on other campuses,” he said.
Even so, some Cornell students oppose the state’s new legislation. Treffeisen said he knows someone personally who is against same-sex marriage.
Rev. West, of the Episcopal Church, said that a member of his congregation confronted him with anti-same-sex-marriage arguments.
“I told him that I respected his opinion but that I disagreed with him and thought it was a very good thing,” West said.
Rev. Clarke agreed, adding that he believes marriage is a civil and human right.
“Two persons who are involved in a loving relationship with one another should have the right to marry,” he said.