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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Students Rally for Right to Marry

President Obama has promised the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community that his administration will end the controversial ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which currently prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the United States military.

At a recent annual fundraising dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., President Obama reiterated his commitment to the community, but warned that ‘our progress may take longer than we like.’

At the state level, New York is dealing with a different set of gay rights issues that are taking longer to change than most supporters had hoped for. The same-sex marriage bill, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) are all currently stalled in the New York State legislature.

On Oct. 14, Stony Brook University’s Social Justice Alliance and the Resident Hall Association sponsored a ‘Rally for Equality’ to help increase awareness for LGBT issues. Students repeated the chant ‘Gay, straight, black, white, marriage is a civil right’ and held ‘GENDA now’ and ‘equality for all families’ signs, while the Stony Brook Pipettes, beat boxers and belly dancers provided entertainment. Henry Ha, 20, a political science major organized the equality rally with the help of his boyfriend, Chris Moran, 20, also a political science major and the main speaker at the rally.

Moran’s booming voice echoed through the crowd, spreading the message to Stony Brook students that sexual orientation, non-discrimination and equality are vital issues for the community.

In a speech to the crowd, he spoke about an openly gay man who was brutally beaten in Queens, indicating that discrimination and violence are still prevalent today. Christine Sapienza, a senior and Italian major, remarked, ‘I just don’t think discrimination is acceptable because you cannot choose your gender or sexuality or whom you are naturally drawn to.’

Other rally guest speakers and attendees included Andrea Callan, from the New York Civil Liberties Union; John Cooper, an openly gay majority leader for Suffolk County; and Joanna Solmonsohn, Long Island Program Organizer at Empire State Pride Agenda. ‘The U.S. Senate has blocked our rights, but we can make a change in New York State,’ Callan said.

If passed by the New York State legislature, the GENDA bill will provide anti-discrimination protection for transgender New Yorkers.

‘There should be justice for all people: gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual,’ said America Marcos, 20, a psychology major, who is a member of the Social Justice Alliance.

One passerby, however, held an opposing viewpoint on the issue. ‘I take a religious stance,’ said Tiffany Villalobos, 21, a political science major. ‘It should be one man and one woman, and if the same-sex marriage bill is not passed, I will be happy.’

Also awaiting passage, the DASA bill specifically prohibits discrimination and harassment, including verbal threats based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex. This bill would apply to school employees and students on school property and during school-related functions.

Same-sex marriage is the most controversial of the three equality bills currently before the state legislature.

Four states have already legalized same-sex marriage ‘- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. Vermont was the first state to do so through its state legislature, while the other three were through court rulings. New York State recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, but cannot perform them within the state.

According to the New York State Pride Agenda, ‘While most New Yorkers utilize marriage as the primary legal device to support their families and gain access to the literally 2,462 rights and responsibilities that the state and federal governments automatically bestow on married couples, same-sex couples in New York are prohibited from marrying here in our home state.’

In 2008, Democrats won control of the New York State Senate for the first time in more than forty years. The LGBT community grew optimistic since Democrats are generally in favor of equality issues, and saw their victory as an opportunity for legislative action on same-sex marriage, GENDA and DASA. However, hopes for immediate action were quickly dashed because Republican state senators, now in the minority, were still able to block and stall these bills and prevent a full vote in their chamber.

Suffolk County Republican State Senator John Flanagan’s office was not available for comment before this article went to press.

Ha delivered a final message for continued advocacy and activism at the Rally for Equality. He looked at the crowd and said, ‘Do you have a voice? As a voting constituent, you have the right to get involved. So, let’s call our senator John Flanagan and tell them how we feel.’

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