The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The dam breaks: Emotions flood campus over gay marriage issue

There was a virtual cornucopia of emotions felt on campus last Wednesday.

Love, hate and ambivalence all wove in and out of the crowds that formed on the free-speech area east of Marriott Library.

Two separate groups of College Republicans and the Lesbian Gay Student Union converged on the free speech plaza to protest and demonstrate regarding the issue of gay marriage.

A small group of student members of the College Republicans-U Chapter had planned a demonstration where it planned to voice its opposition against gay marriage. With a mock bride and groom on hand, the group worked to gather signatures from students in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“We are trying to show that there are people on campus that support traditional marriage,” said Susie Richardson, the bride.

That sentiment was echoed by groom Matt Overly.

“We are here to oppose those who would redefine marriage to support their own lifestyle. We are here to oppose those who want religion to change their moral standards…They will attempt to force their way into our temples.”

The strategy of the College Republicans, however, quickly shifted from offensive to defensive. “Here they come, boys,” said Richardson as a chorus of “gay, straight, black or white, marriage is a civil right,” grew louder and louder, with hundreds of protesters making their way to the free speech area in order to confront the small group of Republicans.

With megaphone in hand, LGSU co-president Lauren Littlefield led the pack of about 300 gay marriage supporters from the Union down to the free-speech area.

“We found out the College Republicans were having an anti-gay rally, so we wanted to have a rally to let students know that there are queers on campus and we care,” Littlefield said.

Derick Stephenson, who also helped organize the rally, said, “It’s important to say that this rally is not anti-them, but pro-us.”

Local camera crews and news reporters added to the feelings of tension that grew thicker as time passed and students exchanged ideologies. One particular exchange between Gentry Boswell, a student member of the Republican group, with Mathew Bradbury, a doctoral student in economics and a passerby, was illustrative of the many arguments and discussions in the free-speech area.

Bradbury questioned why Boswell and others were demonstrating in such a way. Boswell answered by saying, “I want to protect as much as I can.” “Protect what?,” asked Bradbury. “Protect children. If gay people are allowed to get married, they can adopt,” Boswell said. Bradbury left, seemingly confused and angered.

However, the passion of the protesters was not necessarily shared by all students passing the rally on the way to class.

“I think it’s good [they are voicing their opinions]. I just don’t want it to turn bitter. Once people take sides, it gets to be a dilemma,” said Robyn Willie, a senior majoring in communication and psychology.

It is important to note that the event was not simply a dialogue between two groups. Another group on campus threw its hat in the proverbial protest ring, and ironically it was a different group of college Republicans who showed up to disapprove of their colleagues on the right.

David Busby, head of the College Republicans, was passing out flyers voicing his group’s disapproval of the Republicans’ demonstration.

“To disrespect or mock another group is intolerable. The manner in which (the other Republicans) have chosen to voice their opinion is repulsive. It’s about mocking and disrespecting fellow citizens,” Busby said.

Danielle Fowles, organizer for the College Republicans-U Chapter, disagreed with Busby’s assessment.

“All we want to do is let people know how we feel. I feel like we are attacked by their side [gay rights activists]. It has been my experience that the minority is only happy when you shut up and agree with them. There should be no disrespect. I have been called a bigot, but I would say there are bigots on both sides,” Fowles said.

Over the course of the afternoon, the emotions that fueled the initial tension began to subside and dialogue between the two sides grew more calm.

U administrators were impressed by the way that the student protestors handled themselves. Annie Nebeker, associate dean of students, was pleased with the dialogue.

“There was a little concern that there might be violence-we had heard that there was a bad situation at Utah State University, but it seemed calm,” Nebeker said. “We wanted the groups to voice freely. I was pleased in the manner in which the dialogue was conducted.”

Those interested in contacting the College Republicans can call David busby at 870-2511, or send an e-mail to [email protected]. Those interested in contacting the College Republicans-U Chapter can call Danielle Fowles at 558-0350 or send an e-mail to [email protected]. Those interested in contacting the Lesbian Gay Student Union can call Lauren Littlefield at 582 2321, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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