A ruling on same-sex marriage has attracted attention on the St. Thomas campus as it moves one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. A federal appeals court Tuesday ruled California’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional, saying it serves no purpose other than to “lessen the status and human dignity” of gays.
On Wednesday, Washington state lawmakers voted to approve gay marriage, setting the stage for that state to become the seventh in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed.
The California case is expected to go to the nation’s highest court, but a ruling may not be reached before Minnesotans vote in November on a proposed amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Senior J.T. Schuweiler, St. Thomas Allies club president, said that he realizes the California ruling is one of many steps that must happen before gay marriage becomes legal, but he feels the gay community on campus will feel a lot more optimistic if Minnesota rejects the amendment in November.
“Kids don’t feel comfortable coming out at St. Thomas,” Schuweiler said. “There are a lot of issues about, ‘What are my roommates going to think?’ Am I going to receive a lower grade if I start talking about … opening up my feelings in class on whether or not I believe that homosexual acts are immoral or moral?’”
The Allies club works to promote respect for all members of the St. Thomas community no matter their sexual orientation.
St. Thomas law professor Teresea Collett, who opposes gay marriage and has testified in front of several state legislatures, including Minnesota, said that “Minnesota voters won’t be changing the law” on this issue.
“We’ll just be taking the present law and putting it in the state constitution and saying if you want to change it, you have to come talk with the people about it,” Collett said.
Collett said that marriage should continue to be defined as the union between a man and a woman. Gay marriage has been illegal in Minnesota since 1997.
“Somebody is going to decide what the state constitution defines marriage as, and it’s either going to be the Minnesota courts or the voters, just like in California,” Collett said. “I find it remarkable that if the court got it wrong, the people don’t have the right to correct them on their constitutional interpretation.”
Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota constitutional law professor, has been a same-sex marriage advocate for the past 10 years and said that while the California ruling is a step forward, there is still a ways to go.
“The irony is if you want to keep marriage the way it is in Minnesota, you ought not support this amendment because the amendment makes it really clear the federal courts will be involved,” Carpenter said. “The difference is that California previously had gay marriage in the state, and we do not have those in Minnesota. No matter what is decided in November, ultimately the federal courts could have the last say on this.”
Kristopher Jobe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic was created by Cody Levin.