Activists from the St. Thomas and St. Paul community gathered on the corner of Summit and Cretin avenues Saturday, April 17, to protest the Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life Spring Forum that took place on campus.
St. Thomas students and alumni, community members, and members of OutFront Minnesota–an organization that works toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual equality–attended the demonstration to support equality in marriage rights and a more open discussion with St. Thomas administration about the on-campus speaker policy.
“I think it’s really necessary to have this demonstration to just demonstrate to St. Thomas that there is a significant number of people at this school that are not represented systematically by having the space for their voices to be legitimately expressed and heard,” junior Erik Nielsen said. “This is kind of our way to create that space, and I’m hoping that it really sets a precedent for future situations like these that arise.”
Individuals from the Archdiocese communications office and the office of marriage, family and life were unable to be reached at this time. Only ticketed participants were allowed into the forum. The Catholic Spirit newspaper was the only media organization allowed inside.
Students like sophomore Chad Ellertson voiced their frustrations with St. Thomas’ policy in choosing on-campus speakers.
“I don’t necessarily disagree that a Catholic viewpoint on the sanctity of marriage should be expressed on our campus,” Ellertson said. “What I disagree with is that there’s not an equitable representation of both sides of this really contentious issue. I really feel like the administration has swept this opinion under the rug and has kind of run away from this conversation for a long time.”
The forum, which was held in Brady Educational Center’s auditorium, was put on by the St. Paul Seminary and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, not St. Thomas.
Some students are not only frustrated with the lack of equality in on-campus speaker policy, but also with several organizations’ general concept of the institution of marriage.
“I think the National Organization for Marriage and what they represent is really scary,” said Michelle Fournier, an OutFront student intern.
Students from other nearby campuses also attended the event to speak out against marriage discrimination.
“We believe in marriage equality and that love should be honored in every way,” Augsburg freshman Maren Daniels said.
Rebecca Omastiak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.