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Opponents of legislation feel ‘ostracized’ on campus

Students said those who do not support same-sex marriage may fear judgment from peers

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 18, 2013
This article is part of the series Legislating Same-Sex Marriage

Though Brown is often abuzz with students advocating for same-sex marriage, the campus often hears little from those who oppose it.

“You could go around campus and pretty much assume most people support it,” said Dakotah Rice ’16, a member of the Queer Alliance.

According to The Herald’s recent undergraduate poll, only 4 percent of students oppose same-sex marriage.

“I have not had students come to talk to me about (the issue of same-sex marriage) really at all,” said Kirstin Boswell-Ford, associate chaplain for the Protestant community, adding that there is more back-and-forth about it in her church than on campus.

According to the poll, 15 percent of Protestant students oppose same-sex marriage, the highest rate of disapproval of any religious group on campus.

Students often seem “not fully comfortable discussing issues of faith in the public arena here,” which could play a role in the lack of dialogue about this issue, she said.

No students have approached Henry Bodah, associate chaplain for the Catholic community, about their views on same-sex marriage, he told The Herald. Most students seem uninterested in discussing the topic because they have already made up their minds one way or the other, he added.

Ryan Fleming ’13 said he fears that people will think he opposes gay rights if he says he opposes same-sex marriage. As a result, Fleming said he generally avoids discussing the subject, saying, “it ends up being more of a pain in the ass.”

“I hate it the most when people say, ‘Well, you just hate gay people,’” Fleming said.

Marriage constitutes both a physical and spiritual joining of two peoples’ lives, Fleming said. While two people of any sex can combine their spirits — by living together and loving one another —  only a man and a woman can combine corporeally, joining themselves in the act of conceiving a child, he said. This fusing of two individuals’ reproductive systems — which biologically cannot occur between two men or two women — makes marriage a uniquely heterosexual institution, he added.

“This is not a pressing issue in my view, so it’s not something I talk about a lot,” said a male senior who does not support same-sex marriage. The senior requested anonymity out of concern for the social repercussions of opposing same-sex marriage. “I feel the views on campus are so homogenous that I can’t even remember the last time I discussed” my opinion, he added.

He believes  marriage is “a contract” that states should have the power to define as they see appropriate, he said.

“I don’t think it’s illegal for a state to define it as between a man and a woman,” he said, adding that he thinks civil unions with the same tax benefits seem like a fair solution.

Even among the religious leaders on campus, there has been little discussion about same-sex marriage, Bodah and Boswell-Ford said separately.

Individual Protestants have varying opinions on the issue of same-sex marriage depending on whether they look at it from a religious perspective or as a civil right, Boswell-Ford said. Boswell-Ford said she recognizes that as an African-American woman, she has only been able to attain her level of education and her career because of people’s willingness to stand up for her civil rights in the past.

“It’s with this humility that I can say that there is nothing in my faith tradition that tells me I should stand in the way of someone else’s rights,” she said.

The Catholic Church does not discriminate against gay individuals, Bodah said, but believes — based on logic and reason — that the definition of marriage since antiquity in many faith traditions has involved consummation and procreation. He does not wish to deny gay people civil rights but believes that allowing gay marriage would mean changing the meaning of the word “marriage” to reflect any romantic relationship, he said.

Convincing the younger generations to revert to a classical definition of marriage will be very difficult for the Catholic Church, he added. “I am rather pessimistic about the Church being able to undo several generations at least of reimagining marriage in terms of simply romance.”

Though many students from both sides of the political spectrum said they think they are happy without much discussion of same-sex marriage on campus, a few said they would welcome the chance for a broader conversation.

“I think it’s an injustice to the people who are here” that students’ political opinions lack diversity, the anonymous male senior said. Nobody benefits intellectually from a situation where everyone agrees, he said.

Rice said he would be “more than interested in hearing an actual legal justification” of why same-sex marriage should not be legalized but has so far only heard religious or subjective views.

“If you’re Catholic, a Mormon, all of a sudden you get lumped into this idea of southern, white racist,” Fleming said. “That’s not it.”

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