WU students fight for same-sex rights
Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage starting in November 2003. Connecticut came next in October 2008. Iowa and Vermont quickly followed this past month. The new ruling for Iowa and Vermont will become effective starting April 27 and September 1, respectively.
California had recognized same-sex marriages from June 17 until November 5, 2008, when Proposition 8—a bill that eliminated the right for same-sex couples to marry—passed in the state.
For Elizabeth Beier, a sophomore at Washington University and a California native who voted in Missouri in November’s election, the passage of Proposition 8 came largely as a shock and a setback. Meanwhile, the prospect of legalizing same-sex marriage in Missouri remains dim.
“In Missouri, gay marriage is not very plausible at the state level, because it’s been outlawed twice,” Beier said.
Instead of falling into the trap of becoming discouraged in the fight for expanding the LGBT rights, however, Beier decided to continue lobbying on the local level with a renewed energy.
According to Beier, there are currently two bills up for consideration for the state of Missouri: the Safe Schools Bill and the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA).
Safe Schools would ensure that students at public schools cannot abuse other students based on sexual orientation, religion, race and other traits.
“The current situation with bullying is there is a bill that says ‘no bullying,’ just in general, which you think would be enough,” Beier said. “But unfortunately, what’s happening is that when gay students are bullied, the leaders of the school say, ‘Well, this is your fault to be out and acting in an effeminate way. You should start changing your behavior.’”
MONA would add homosexuality, sexual orientation and gender expression to the list of traits that are protected from discrimination.
“We brought these to the capital. I went with a group called My Tyme Missouri, [a nonprofit organization] that distributes newsletters [on LGBT issues],” Beier said.
Despite her own activism, Beier senses a certain amount of apathy in some within the gay rights movement.
“I think Prop 8 sort of [angered] a lot of people, but there are some people who say that gay rights are inevitable, that we just have to wait,” she said.
Although Beier thinks the view that gay rights will be granted eventually does have some validity, she still strongly believes that the LGBT community must continue its fight because otherwise, “conservatives will still continue sticking it to us along the way.”
Some students, like sophomore Jovana Husic, co-director of Safe Zones, believe that the most important advocacy work she can do as a student is raising awareness within her own community.
“All we can do is try to educate Wash. U. to make sure we’re good allies and we’re informed on these issues. We can’t change what the courts in California are going to decide,” Husic said.
Husic personally feels that the University is a relatively friendly environment for LGBT students.
“I think Wash. U., compared to a lot of schools, is absolutely wonderful. We have a 4.5 out of a five-star rating in LGBT friendliness,” she said.
Husic also applauded the LGBT community on campus for its activism and involvement in advocacy and educating others.
“We have a very active, very alive, very supportive gay community that I am so proud to be a part of,” Husic said. “However, I do find that sometimes professors can be very ignorant, just people make a lot of assumptions, but I don’t think it’s anything other than typical heterosexism.”
Most recently, same-sex marriage was the focus of a Controversy N’ Coffee session that was attended by nearly 200 students and other members of the University community who met to listen and discuss the issue.
With the continuing work of Beier, Husic, members of Pride Alliance and others, LGBT issues are likely to draw greater attention and receive greater awareness in the years to come.