This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases that will be significant, one way or another, in shaping our country’s approach to gay marriage. Unceasing updates have flooded online news feeds, and people across the nation have taken to the web to advocate their beliefs. Many of you have done the same. We have observed vigorous support for marriage equality that is reminiscent of the excitement with which many Cornellians greeted New York State’s legalization of gay marriage in 2011. If students here have been accused of political apathy or disengagement from the public sphere, their presence on social media this week has certainly challenged that assertion. Droves of Cornellians have joined the passionate and unwavering fight for marriage equality. To those of you among them: We stand with you wholeheartedly.
The community we inhabit at Cornell — one with a large and thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community — makes the controversy surrounding this issue seem all the more incredible. Professors and course materials remind us every day of the myriad similar civil rights movements we have seen in this country. Our education allows us to look back on history with incredulity, mystified that institutionalized discrimination against women, African Americans and countless other groups persisted in such recent memory. In a while — a short while, we hope — Cornellians will study the evolution of gay rights in much the same way, marveling at our nation’s reluctance to fully embrace equality.
We recognize that there are many people, including members of the Cornell community, who feel strongly about keeping marriage a heterosexual institution. But the obstruction of equality that those convictions create is infuriating — its effects are tangible, and the reach of its consequences extend to our fellow Cornellians. Despite the progress made in New York, many of our classmates, our friends and our roommates will graduate from Cornell and return to homes where they are denied the right to marry the person they love. This is a truth we are unwilling to accept. As students, the onus will be on us to determine how soon equality is achieved in this country. Let us be the generation that affects positive change, rather than the generation disdained by our children for our failure to do so.