Throughout the history of our country, civil and equal rights has remained at the forefront of social issues facing Americans. One that is increasingly relevant in the 21st century, especially on college campuses is that of gay rights, namely their right to marry.
On the campus of Central Michigan University, the movement for LGBTQ is relatively new as the LGBTQ Services office on campus was founded five years ago by its current leader, Shannon Jolliff. Jolliff, 28, is a CMU grad who is overwhelmingly encouraged by the recent steps taken in bringing the legalization of gay marriage to the state of Michigan.
When she founded the group, Jolliff took over the responsibility for roughly 900 openly gay and lesbian students on campus, where as today that number has escalated to an estimated 3,500. These organizations are shifting the culture in the state of Michigan, headed by conservative governor Rick Snyder, whose Republican party is typically decidedly against gay marriage and civil unions.
In the most recent election, which saw Democratic incumbent candidate Barack Obama reelected, two more states chose to legalize gay marriage in Maryland and Washington state. This in addition to the monumental news for the LGBTQ community that New York state, elected to allow same sex marriage as well.
This is a shift in focus of students on campus, who seem to support the cause of the community on campus, as they claim the school is one student body: “I don’t think it’s fair (for gays to be denied marriage rights), with how much times have changed”, says Fowlerville freshman Emily Tiihonen.
Times certainly have changed, on a campus where the students seem to want unity over all other personal desires they may have. When asked about his views on gay marriage, Detroit freshman Vernon Benjamin Jr. claimed that “If people are for it, I don’t mind.
The real issue at stake is the benefits gay and lesbian couples stand to gain from being permitted to be lawfully wed. Primary of which is concerned to health insurance benefits, which under civil union or gay marriage would allow both parties to be covered under the same plan, as opposed to separate accounts.
This is according to an article in Politico by columnist Jason Millman, that states the president’s proposed “Obamacare” plan would allow benefits to be redeemed by same sex couples. This of course an issue that is currently in the process of being settled, but this plan, if upheld, would not take effect until 2014.
For the LGBTQ community, the fight is about finding a place in a community where they had previously felt ostracized or condemned. Official legislation on the issue of gay marriage seems to be something to be dealt with on state by state basis, and not on a federal or national level
With recent events, this communities cause has gained more traction than ever but the primary goal for organizations like the LGBTQ Services is to crate an environment for these individuals where they feel confident about themselves. “We intend to provide a nurturing and safe environment for our affiliates on campus, to erase any insecurity”, adding “we have certainly made great progress in eliminating the distinction between a gay person, and simply a person.”
Jolliff says the department is open to anyone on campus with concerns about their sexual orientation or personal identity, an issue plaguing many young Americans who feel that they’re personal life is unethical or immoral based on feedback from their parental units or depictions in the media
As of press time, there have been no more developments on this story, as the campus of Central Michigan University collectively prepares for finals week, the focus has shifted to matters of No. 2 pencils and blue books.
This issue will continue to remain one the divides the aisle for both parties, and is unlikely to reach a conclusion in president Obama’s second term, as there are large groups morally opposed to the idea of gay marriage. As Jolliff noted: “I have been the director of this organization for five years, and there is no telling what can happen.”