March 28, 2013

Cornell Reacts to Supreme Court Debate on Gay Marriage

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As the United States Supreme Court deliberated two key legislations crucial to same-sex marriage –– prompting people nationwide to express their feelings on the issue on posts and pictures online –– Cornell students expressed mixed feelings about the activism surrounding same sex-marriage.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court judges discussed the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a controversial provision passed in 2008 that banned same-sex marriage in California. They then deliberated the constitutionality of the  Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that prohibits giving federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples on Wednesday.

If both cases proceed to Supreme Court rulings, it could potentially legalize same-sex marriage on a federal level and grant federal marriage benefits to same-sex marriages.

Students expressed excitement about the cases being brought to the Supreme Court.

Ankur Bajaj ’13 said he was “especially excited to be an LGBTQIA American at this moment,” adding that “the cases being discussed have broad implications on our lives and on the lives of those we love.”

But in reaction to the judges’ oral arguments about Proposition 8 –– in which some judges said Tuesday it may be too early for such a case to be considered in the Supreme Court –– some students expressed disappointment.

“The first analyses of the oral arguments for the Prop 8 case are troubling, in that we’ve heard from several justices that they’re hesitant to make a substantive ruling on the matter because it may be too early when considering political repurcussions,” Bajaj said. He said he believes that “providing civil rights equally isn’t something that can be ‘too early.’”

Anthony Santa Maria ’13, Treasurer of Haven, Cornell LGBTQ Student Union, echoed Bajaj’s sentiments.

“It’s 2013. … If they’re not going to make a decision now, they’ll never do it,” he said.

In regards to the second legislation that was under consideration by Supreme Court –– DOMA –– Emily Bick ’13, president of Haven, said that “as an ‘out’ person who intends to have a family, DOMA’s existence puts excess financial and mental strain on my future.”

Some students expressed skepticism about focusing on marriage as a means of attaining equality.

“If [same sex marriage] is legalized, marriage will be thought of as the only legitimate form of partnership. … I personally think that the ultimate goal should be a reconceptualization of how we view relationships,” Santa Maria said.

Bailey Dineen ’15, vice president of the Cornell University Gay-Straight Alliance agreed with Santa Maria, saying that there are limits within the institutionalization of marriage.

“The institutionalization of marriage will ultimately exclude people no matter how its definition is expanded. There will always be people for whom the nuclear family and a legalized marriage are impossible or undesirable because the government’s values are not universally shared by or available to all Americans,” she said.

Instead, “true equality would mean the deregulation of these institutions altogether, so that the particular values of different communities are equally protected,” Dineen said.

Furthermore, Bick warned that marriage should not be seen as “the be-all and end-all of equality.”

“Legalizing marriage would be one step in the right direction, but there is much more to be done,” she said.

Still, Dineen expressed optimism about the support that people have shown for marriage equality, specifically referring to the campaign in which people demonstrated support for the legalization of same-sex marriage by changing their profile pictures on social media sites to an equal sign.

“It was really great to see so many people coming out as allies with the equal signs,” she said.

Bajaj echoed Dineen’s sentiments, saying “the warmth and support that has been brought to the forefront by [the social media campaign] has been overwhelming and in the best way possible.”

Both cases are expected to be decided by June, according to BBC.

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee