Speak Up, Speak Out’s speaker series continued Monday with “In the Courts, On the Ballots, In the Streets,” which focused on pressing issues facing the LGBTQ Community.
The six-person forum, facilitated by assistant professor of philosophy Andrew Blom, touched on issues such as the impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, anti-discriminatory laws and how students can get involved in the LGBTQ community.
“We had a tremendous turnout,” Blom said. “We had students who really wanted to be part of the conversation and wanted to talk to each other about it. It sounds like students who came walked away more thoughtful and more informed than they came in on certain issues.”
One of the first issues to be discussed was the Defense of Marriage Act, which was ruled partially unconstitutional in June by the Supreme Court.
“Getting something that is majorly a democratic issue through the U.S. House is unlikely at this time,” said Alissa Barrett, a Mount Pleasant senior and political science student. “We have a stubborn Congress and a difficult senate, so a decision is not likely to happen soon.”
Other panelists talked about the work ahead for equality.
“The defeat of DOMA was a good first step, but there is plenty left to do,” said Northville senior and Phi Alpha Delta President Grayson Smith. ”Section three of DOMA was the part pertaining to marriage between a man and a woman. Article two is what is continuing to cause discrimination.”
Another major focus of the night was about governmental motions such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit hiring and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994 but has never passed.
Many students agreed acts like these need to be in place before gay marriage can be approved nationwide.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to have equal rights in Michigan without local non-discriminatory laws,” Director of LGBTQ Services Shannon Dettore said. “I’m not sure if people understand the implications of equal rights without the basic protections.”
Others called for immediate action.
“I don’t understand why we are having the discussion of giving someone basic rights when it is something that should have been finished a long time ago,” Smith said. “We’ve been waiting on the people for a while, we need to act now and get something changed.”
The panel also spoke about the need for students to get involved in these issues no matter which side they stand on.
“We need to talk about these issues in a no-combative way,” Smith said. “If we can make it past that, I think we have a chance to make some major progress. You need to interact and inform people because people have the power.”