April 7, 2004

Cornell Hosts Same-Sex Marriage Debate

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In an event sponsored by the Cornell University Program Board, Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, debated Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, last night on the topic of same-sex marriage.

Knight, who formerly served as an editor of the Los Angeles Times and wrote and directed a video about recovery from homosexuality, asserted that marriage should be upheld as a God-sanctioned institution, and that it is threatened by the notion of same-sex unions.

“If [a homosexual] relationship is recognized at the same level as [a heterosexual relationship], then that creates a counterfeit,” he said.

Knight argued that gay marriage would impose undue limits upon society, and would create social problems.

“Some corporations are now threatening to end all benefits based on marriage, because they say it ultimately discriminates,” he said. “Certain things happen when you put counterfeit marriage into the law. Businesses are told that they must subsidize homosexual relationships regardless of the beliefs of the businessperson. Schoolchildren are taught in schools that homosexuality is normal and healthy and anyone who says otherwise is a hate-filled bigot. This imposes limits on other people’s values.”

Birch emphasized the distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage, and contended that since gay and lesbian citizens financially support the benefits inherent in the government-sanctioned marriage with their tax dollars, they should be able to enjoy its benefits as well.

“Any taxpaying citizen should have exactly the same opportunities for rights and benefits and privileges and obligations and responsibilities as any other taxpaying citizen,” she said.

“I really can’t fathom why I should work my whole life and pay taxes so that heterosexual couples can take care of their children, but I can’t take care of mine,” she added.

Birch asserted that conservatives have latched onto the issue of same-sex marriage during an election year in order to avert attention from other topics of debate, including the war in Iraq and the national deficit.

“Why are we acting like there is a national crisis about marriage? We should be dealing with our horrific economy, the war in Iraq, and other issues,” she said.

Audience members had mixed reactions, which was evidenced by their cheering and booing at various statements by Birch and Knight. Students had criticism for both debaters.

“I think that Mr. Knight came off as immature and obnoxious sometimes,” said Natasia Langfelder ’06, who attended the debate, “But I thought that Ms. Birch hurt her argument by going so much into the Iraq war. She should’ve stuck to her argument more.”

While Birch lauded the efforts of officials in cities like San Francisco and New Paltz to allow same-sex marriages to take place, Knight said that any such efforts are unethical, and moreover condemned Ithaca Mayor Carolyn K. Peterson’s position of supporting same-sex couples in their attempts to file for marriage licenses in New York State.

“I think she ought to be ashamed of herself,” he said. “The mayor is not only going outside the law of the United States, she is going outside of the law of nature. She is trying to use the law to force a distorted view of sexuality on the community.”

Archived article by Andrew Beckwith
Sun Staff Writer