Posted November 1, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life

Gay Marriage Debate ‘Explores Controversial Issues’

Religion and politics were noticeably absent during the October 19 debate on same-sex marriage at The Evergreen State College. The debate was inspired by Referendum 74 – Washington’s attempt to legalize same-sex marriage – which will be up for vote on November 6 during the general election. The purpose of the debate was to, “explore controversial issues,” not to persuade spectators to change their minds about their perspectives of Referendum 74.

The structure of the debate revealed that neither debater believed that homosexual relationships should be denied any rights. Rather, the debate was steered towards the definition of ‘marriage’ and whether a gay couple should be considered married – or if a different term, such as ‘civil union,’ should be used.

Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law at Northwestern University, argued in favor of Referendum 74. “I am a boring person,” said Koppelman in his opening statement. “I am married, I have family. A very ordinary life…The central claim that I want to make about same-sex couples, who are the object of controversy tonight, is – with all due respect to them – they are boring too. The case for same-sex marriage…is essentially identical to the case of a heterosexual marriage.”

Arguing in opposition to the referendum was Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage. “Marriage is a word with a meaning and a purpose in society. We cannot simply add same-sex couples to the institution,” Gallagher began. “It is not discrimination to treat different things differently…This is not a debate about who can visit who in the hospital, or who can take out a mortgage together…it’s a debate about whether this public understanding of the word marriage reflects the mean-spirited desire to exclude, or rather reflects the support of something that is really necessary in human affairs.”

After the two debaters stated their cases, the floor was opened to the audience for a question and answer period. Issues were raised on various topics, such as the exclusivity of social security rights to heterosexual couples, child custody, and adoption in gay relationships, as well as whether trans-sexual citizens are defined as their gender identity or their physical sex by the federal government.

A show of hands revealed that many spectators were inclined to approve Referendum 74. While Gallagher’s arguments went against the majority at Evergreen, one audience member left with a “with a better understanding of a more rational opposing argument.

By Ray Still