Gay rights hot topics shift

A Higher Education Research Institute study shows a spike in gay marriage support.

Peers in my Gender in America class, a Gen-Ed class, had to sign up for one of several group project topics, including women in the military, people who are intersex, women in sports, the effects of pornography, sex, gender and advertising, male breastfeeding (yes, this actually does happen), fathering roles, sex inequality in the workplace and same-sex marriage.

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I’ll give you one guess as to which topic tied with sex inequality for the most student sign-ups. And no, it was not male breastfeeding.

Ten years ago, a survey from the Higher Education Research Institute found that 56 percent of college freshmen supported gay marriage. The recent results from a survey last fall found that 65 percent of college freshmen support same-sex marriage.

The 9-percent increase, while certainly positive, makes HERI look like it’s stating the obvious.

The 65 percent of freshmen college students supporting same-sex is not shocking to me, not in the least.

Support of LGBT equality in general was shown overwhelmingly when Temple’s Queer Student Union and the cast of Temple Theater’s production of Rent heard that Westboro Baptist Church planned an on-campus protest for April 1.

Students crowded the tiny Student Center the Wednesday before spring break to hear and support QSU, Temple College Democrats and Temple Student Government during their planning meeting for the counter-protest. Hundreds of students joined the three Facebook counter-protest events to show they care and support their LGBTQ peers.
That 65 percent of the college freshmen population across the country support same-sex marriage, after taking all of this into consideration, is not surprising.

The interesting part of HERI’s findings is that since the survey was implemented in 1997, support has gone up 21 percentage points among liberal students, 16 percentage points among students in the middle and 2 percentage points among conservative students.

Since I’ve come out, I’ve grown in terms of the way I think about marriage equality and the LGBTQ rights movement as a whole.

First, there’s the partisan aspect of the marriage equality puzzle. It irks me that people on all sides of the political spectrum can’t seem to come together and realize that this is a human rights issue. It’s as ridiculous as prohibiting interracial couples the right to marry was prior to Loving v. Virginia, the case in 1967 that ended marriage restrictions on the basis of race.

Maybe one day, future generations will hear about a similar case in our lifetime that finds marriage restrictions on the basis of sex unconstitutional.

It seems that both sides of the spectrum, no one wants to take action for LGBTQ rights. Democrats ­– with the exception of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom – are all talk and no walk. Republicans, with the exception of a few like the female McCain family members, argue against LGBTQ rights without hesitation.

I’ve also looked at marriage equality as this predominantly bigger struggle fought for by the LGBTQ community in terms of rights. It seems like marriage is always the issue at the front of the line. And while I agree that marriage equality is important – I would like to not have to worry about being denied the right to marry a future partner – we need to look at the LGBTQ rights movement and fight for rights that apply to everyone in the community.

Not everyone wants to get married, but I think we can agree anyone would appreciate not being fired or evicted because a boss or landlord doesn’t like his or her expression of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The recent Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debates put a smile on my face because finally marriage equality isn’t at the forefront of the equal rights fight.

We don’t need to divide and conquer, going down a line until we get each individual rights. Members of the LGBTQ community deserve all their rights. And they deserve them now.

Josh Fernandez can be reached at

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