Campus, community discuss gay rights in Kentucky

Katherine Sproles

Students and community members gathered in Snell Hall Tuesday night to hear panelists discuss the summer Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 and the effect they have on gay rights.

The event addressed two main issues: the Supreme Court decision disabling DOMA, a federal law that allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states, and the Proposition 8 decision and what it means for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality nationwide and in Kentucky.

Michael Aldridge, who moderated the event, said the panelists participated in a similar forum in Louisville after several churches in the area were interested in learning more about how the decisions would impact LGBT equality and how to talk to their congregations about it.

“Then the local group organizing Bowling Green fairness thought it would be a great program for the community here as efforts were under way here for a local fairness ordinance here in Bowling Green,” Aldridge said.

Advocacy cards were passed out and guests were asked to sign so that when representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky go to the legislature, they have visual representation of support to show the Kentucky representatives, Aldridge said.

“It’s important for them to see representation from all around the state,” he said.

First to speak at the panel was Sam Marcosson, a professor from University of Louisville. Marcosson spoke about the two Supreme Court rulings and what it means for Kentuckians if there is no challenge to the 2004 Kentucky marriage amendment.

“The decisions are certainly historical,” Mascosson said.

The Windsor Case, which disabled Section 3 of DOMA, he said, is significant because the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriages.

“If you get married somewhere that does recognize a same-sex marriage, the federal government has now decided it will recognize that marriage wherever you go in the United States,” Marcosson said.

“If you go to Kentucky, although Kentucky will not recognize it, the Feds will,” he said.

Kristi Branham, assistant professor of gender and women’s studies and a gay woman, brought her own experiences to the conversation.

Branham shared how barring same-sex marriage illegitimates some relationships.

“We do not have vocabulary in our society to identify and name LGBT relationships that have the same rhetorical force and credibility as ‘marriage,’ ‘wife’ and ‘husband,’” Branham said.

Patricia Minter, associate professor of history and faculty regent, also spoke. Minter used her expertise in legal law to shed light on how many Kentuckians support fairness of LGBT couples but not gay marriage specifically.

One statistic Minter gave said that 83 percent of Kentuckians polled by Nate Silver in 2010 either strongly agreed or agreed that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be protected from anti-gay and gender identity workplace discrimination.

Other panelist speakers included Andrew Salman, president of WKU Student Identity Outreach and Alan Smith of grassroots organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

Salman spoke about the Fairness on Fountain Square movement, which educates local businesses on how supporting fairness rights provides for more successful businesses.