Activists talk about gay marriage ban

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

The passage of Amendment Three to the Utah Constitution, which outlawed same sex marriage, was largely debated at the time as an amendment that would protect traditional nuclear families.

When the amendment passed by a two-thirds vote in 2004, gay activists said many voters forgot to consider how families in the queer community would be affected.

Yesterday, the Hinckley Institute of Politics, in coordination with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, hosted a forum to debate the controversial amendment.

“It is the youth who are going to make a change,” said Mel Nimer, a member of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans. “In my generation, being gay was an unspeakable sin, but now in your generation, 70 to 80 percent of the youth are accepting and welcoming to members of the gay community.”

Amendment Three served to redefine marriage in Utah to consist of the legal union between a man and a woman, adding that no other domestic union would be given the same legal standing.

“Amendment Three is a big challenge for the LGBT community,” said Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City. “Now it will be legal battles in the courts to ensure the rights of the LGBT community in Utah. If you think your silence is appropriate, think again-it is silence that is so damaging.”

Biskupski said involvement in groups such as Equality Utah and access to technology make it easy to express opinions on the issue to representatives, urging students to speak out to lawmakers by doing simple things such as sending text messages to their Blackberries.

The forum had prominent panel members from the local political scene including activists from the Stonewall Democrats and Log Cabin Republicans. Also on the panel were such queer activist groups as Equality Utah and the Transgender Education Advocates of Utah.

“For me, the reason I stay and I advocate is because if we don’t stay together and unite, then what are we doing?” Christopher Scuderi of TEA said. “We need to stand together as the LGBTQ community, and all marginalized groups need to stay together because we are all fighting for the same basic human rights.”

All panelists reiterated the importance of political activism from any and all individuals who are eligible to vote, saying that the catalyst for change in any state or city is public participation.

“You guys are young,” said Becky Moss of the Stonewall Democrats. “You’ve got voices and new ideas, and it is you who needs to be out there advocating for action. I’m old, and our tactics can only carry us so far. Get registered and vote. We need the public to get out and vote, so there can be an accurate representation in Utah.”

Although the forum was dominated by panelists who agreed on issues affecting the queer population, there were different reactions to the panel’s ideas of achieving equality.

“It’s good that these issues are being talked about, but we’re being overly optimistic,” said Sydney Rhees, a senior in psychology. “It’s hell out there, and change will only come slowly this way. This panel will talk about change but they won’t stand up and make it happen. I don’t think things are getting any better. They’re still difficult.”

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Mel Nimer, member of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans, speaks at the Hinckley Institute of Politics on Queer Community issues surrounding Amendment Three to the Utah constitution. The forum also featured panelists Will Carlson, Rep. Jackie Biskupski and Christopher Scuderi.