About 200 rally for marriage equality
By Jenny Hottle, staff writer
Friday, October 12, 2012
Originally posted on diamondbackonline.com
For Kevin Hollander, the issue of same-sex marriage is more than a question on the November ballot and more personal than a fight for civil rights.
The junior marketing and psychology major said he has known he was gay since he was about 10 years old. It wasn’t until he was in ninth grade that he revealed his sexuality, after his sister came out to him.
So on Thursday afternoon, joined by his parents Bob and Lori, Hollander and about 200 students gathered in the Nyumburu Amphitheater with state elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), to rally support for marriage equality.
A bill granting same-sex couples the right to marry passed in the state legislature in February, but Republican lawmakers succeeded in gathering thousands of signatures to put the issue before voters, stating marriages should exist only between a man and a woman under the traditional definition of the institution.
Since then, the Student Government Association, University Senate and various student groups and local officials have thrown their backing behind same-sex marriage and encouraged students to support the issue at the polls.
“I am where I am because of these people who have fought for me,” said Hollander. “I feel like it is our duty to fight so people in future generations will be able to look forward and have the same rights as everyone else.”
His parents, both marriage counselors for 25 years, attended the rally because they are “tremendous supporters of LGBT equality,” Lori Hollander said. “We’re in favor [of marriage equality] personally and professionally.”
The marriage equality events were sponsored by groups across the campus, including the SGA, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, College Democrats, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity Center and The One Project. On National Coming Out Day, which remembers the 200,000 people who marched for gay rights in Washington 25 years ago, those groups and dozens of other students gathered at Nyumburu to create their own day to remember.
1:15 P.M., HORNBAKE PLAZA
About 70 multicolored balloons fluttered in the breeze, forming a rainbow arc around Hornbake Plaza. Each balloon displayed a handwritten message expressing individuals’ reasons for supporting same-sex marriage.
“Because love is love,” one balloon read.
“Because my wedding will literally be the best party ever!” was penned on another.
The balloons struggled against the wind, but volunteers continued adjusting them and adding more to the ground.
“We had about twice as many this morning, but they just kept popping,” said one volunteer, junior German and journalism major Zachary Mellen.
Despite the popping balloons, students continued adding their personal messages.
“Love is blind and universal,” wrote sophomore neurobiology and physiology major Janet Karanja, who said she just wants everyone to be happy. “[Same-sex marriage] is not harming anyone in anyway.”
“It’s the one issue I haven’t seen a good counterargument for,” added her friend Eva Morgun, a sophomore cell biology and genetics major.
Hollander, the vice president of marketing for SmithOUT, which directed that portion of the event, said the group saw a need for an LGBT organization to advocate for political causes.
“We all want to get married one day,” Hollander said. “And we recognized that it’s important to be social and active. We want to show the support at Maryland, since we know it will be a close vote.”
2:45 P.M., NYUMBURU MULTIPURPOSE ROOM
As people slowly trickled into the Nyumburu Multipurpose Room, SGA Director of Diversity Charmaine Wilson-Jones couldn’t stop checking the time on her phone.
“One hour and 11 minutes to go,” the sophomore government and politics major said, putting her phone away and taking it back out a minute later.
“The past two weeks, we’ve been getting so excited, putting so much work into this,” said SGA Director of Communications Matt Arnstine. “I can’t believe it’s here.”
Prior to the day’s biggest event, the marriage equality rally, students met with state senators and delegates, who shared their own personal experiences with coming out and pushing for same-sex marriage legislation to pass.
For Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), it was “exhilarating and fulfilling” to convince representatives to back their LGBT colleagues, though the work was not without its challenges and frustrations.
Mizeur, who said she is “out and proud,” refused to give another delegate permission to vote against the bill, even though a cardinal in Rome called to pressure him not to vote for it.
She recalled telling her colleague, “At the end of the day, you’re telling me that you and your wife have rights that my wife and I don’t deserve.” He eventually changed his mind and said he’d cast the 71st vote, which enabled the bill to pass.
Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) said introducing the marriage equality bill to Governor Martin O’Malley earlier this year was “a dream that I could not have envisioned a decade ago.”
“Why and how we fall in love — none of us know the answer — but when you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, it’s hard to make it work without the bond of that license,” Madaleno said. “That license ensures that in good times and in bad, you have the strength to make it work. It’s important to make sure that every family in Maryland has those protections.”
The most incredible part of the marriage equality campaign to Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) was its growth, he said.
“We built every step of the way a bigger and broader coalition of groups, of people, and we’ve had people show up on the way we didn’t expect to be there — Democrats and Republicans,” Clippinger said.
The delegates, who ended the question and answer session early so attendees could get to the rally, said polls consistently show overall state support for marriage equality.
“But I don’t think that means we have it in the bag,” Mizeur said. “It’s cliche, but the only poll that matters is on election day.”
4 P.M., NYUMBURU AMPHITHEATER
More than 200 students lined the rows of the amphitheater, according to Arnstine, some waving pride flags and others holding up “Vote for Question 6” posters.
“Today, we are here taking a stand as a student body that we are in favor of equality for all Marylanders,” SGA President Sam Zwerling said.
Cardin, surrounded by an echo of cheers and applause, called Nov. 6 “the opportunity for Maryland to lead the nation, to say we’re going to remove the discrimination in our laws that prevent a same-sex couple from being married.”
Students at this university have worked for years to eliminate various forms of discrimination, he said, from racial injustice to gender inequity, and they have the opportunity to do it again this election.
“This issue is close,” Cardin said. “If you work hard, we’re going to win on Question 6 — but we need your help.”