Two Massachusetts leaders debated the subject of gay marriage in front of students in the Great Court of Mitten Hall on Nov. 11.
John H. Rogers, the Democratic House Majority Leader of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Cheryl Jacques, a gay rights activist and the first openly-gay state senator in the history of Massachusetts, debated the issue of gay marriage for nearly 90 minutes in front of a nearly full room of students Thursday night.
Both Rogers and Jacques made sure to state in their openings that the debate would be a “policy discussion” and nothing more. As Rogers said, “I’m not going to quote from the bible.”
Rogers stated that his position is that gay marriage should not exist, but that civil unions should be created for gay couples that incorporate the same rights afforded to married straight couples.
“A decent and ordered society can and should provide new systems, new institutions to protect same sex families and their children in the same way that [straight] families are protected for marriage,” Rogers said.
Rogers referred to an amendment he proposed to the Massachusetts Constitution that would afford the same rights for gay couples as straight couples, but through a civil union instead of marriage. He called this “separate, but equal.”
“Though different, we are equal,” Rogers said. “And though equal, we are different.”
He went on to say that his reasoning for “separate, but equal” is to not upset what in his belief is the definition of marriage.
“America need not change the time honored definition of marriage or the clear meaning that marriage imparts in order to provide some [segments] of this nation the legal benefits and legal status that the institution of marriage confirms,” Rogers said.
Jacques complimented Rogers on his job as a legislator but said, “He is wrong.”
Jacques compared the struggle for gay civil rights to the struggle for civil rights of other demographics, such as women’s and African-Americans’.
“Gay people don’t want special rights, they want equal rights,” Jacques said.
Jacques went on to shoot down Rogers’ claim that civil unions and marriages are “separate, but equal,” and compared it to how “separate, but equal,” was ruled discrimination in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.
“It’s not separate, but equal,” Jacques said. “It’s separate and unequal.”
Jacques also said the struggle for gay civil rights has a lot to due with the misconceptions of gay marriage, imploring students to educate people they know about gay marriage.
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.