Students at CMU witnessed a changing tide in American politics after the Supreme Court ruled a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional last week, requiring the federal government to treat all marriages – gay or straight – the same.
Following the June 26 ruling, both sides of the student political spectrum at CMU began to come to terms with the ruling, which struck down the most controversial portion of the 17-year-old law signed by former President Bill Clinton.
Across party lines, students said that despite the federal ruling, the future of marriage equality lies in the hands of the states.
“The court has ruled, and that’s just the reality,” said CMU College Republicans Vice Chair Mike Holmes, a Grand Rapids senior. “We will always stand for state’s rights. Some who believe in the historical definition of marriage were disappointed, but we’re not going to the streets with pitchforks and torches. You don’t have to agree, but respect the process.”
Holmes said disputes over social issues have become more prominent in recent years.
“The younger generations on both sides are more moderate on these social issues than they have been in the past,” he said. “This is not the defining issue for us. The independent ability for the states to make their own decisions is.”
On the other side of the fence, CMU College Democrats President Taylor Gehrcke said he was ecstatic about the court’s ruling but was wary of future fights over gay marriage.
“I have so much happiness for those people in California,” he said. “It was a victory to repeal DOMA, but there are still a lot of issues. It will challenge the Republicans as we are starting to see a shift. They’re going to be a little more open-minded.”
Also pointing toward immigration, Gehrcke hopes the GOP will adapt to changing demographics and beliefs.
“If (Republicans) want to stay a party, they need to adapt to what people want,” he said. “It’s that one step closer towards where we want to go. I would really encourage supporters to keep on supporting because same-sex marriage is still not allowed in Michigan.”
Mount Pleasant junior Sean Vanevery, who serves as president of Spectrum at CMU, a gay-straight alliance student organization, remained wary of the challenges ahead for the gay community.
“There are still issues facing the community,” he said. “People still can get fired for being gay or not approved for housing. Michigan does not approve of same-sex marriage. It’s definitely something we need to get on the ballot. I think it’s a change we want to see in the states getting rid of discrimination. Human rights are something we have to fight for.”
But, Vanevery still considers the ruling a victory for those who have been fighting for equal rights for decades. He said that all human rights activists should consider it a win, as well.
“It’s one of the biggest rights people have been fighting for, gay or straight,” he said. “I love my allies.”