SunTrust Auditorium was filled so far past capacity on Thursday, Sept. 30 that students and even staff sat on the floor along the walls and in the front of the room. It was the first Diversity Dialogue of the school year called “In the Wake of Prop 8.” Co-sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Spectrum and the Order of Omega, the Diversity Dialogue was a panel discussion surrounding marriage equality. The five panelists were Crummer student Joonmo Ku, Kyle Hackel ’12, Assistant Visiting Professor of Communications Greg Cavenaugh, lawyer Mary Meeks and filmmaker Vicki Nantz. Each panelist brought a different light to the discussion. The moderators were Louisa Gibbs ’11 and Dr. Kathryn Norsworthy from the Graduate Studies in Counseling program. Ku, married last year in Canada to his longtime partner, discussed the historical and international perspective of marriage equality. Dr. Cavenaugh spoke of gender roles and language, encouraging people to say “marriage equality,” and not “gay marriage,” as latter implies that it is a reward not being given instead of a right not being afforded. Hackel eloquently stated the politically conservative and religious views on marriage equality, yet stated that he is a proud Republican who believes in marriage equality for all. He emphasized the idea that there are many diverse views on marriage equality, not all Republicans or religious people are against it, just as not all Democrats are for it.
Meeks and Nantz are renowned in the Central Florida community for being strong advocates for marriage equality and other LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights. Nantz recently had a fi lm in the Global Peace Film Festival entitled “In Anita’s Wake,” which focused on adoption rights of the LGBT community. The two had the most emotional and personal views in the panel, sharing that they recently got married because last year their friend was dying in the hospital, and the friend’s partner was consistently put through the pain of having to justify their presence in the hospital room. The partner had to prove that the two were in a relationship and had to keep legal documents with them at all times in order to be allowed in the room together. Nantz and Meeks stressed that marriage equality is not about taking something away from one group, but about giving the same rights and privileges to all people. Meeks pointed out that heterosexual couples enjoy 1200 rights and privileges of marriage that same-sex couples do not. Nantz talked about the importance of the language of marriage; that one should be able to truly describe how important another person is to him or her, and in order to do so that person must be able to be called “husband” or “wife.”
After the panelists presented their viewpoints, the discussion was opened up to the audience. Students asked questions about the legalities of marriage equality as well as for clarification on previous issues from the panelists. Samuel Sanabria, a student in the Graduate Studies in Counseling program, shared his inspiring story. He and his partner were “civil unioned” and adopted a baby in Vermont a year ago. He described the happiness of his family at being able to enjoy the rights given in Vermont here in Florida. As it currently stands, very few states recognize same-sex couples, even if they have a civil union or marriage in another state.
The overall tone of the panel was inspiring and hopeful, encouraging students to get involved and keep working toward equality for all.