By: Rachel Cain – News Editor and Cassie DeBolt – Staff Writer
In a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide June 26. The decision inspired hope for UD students, faculty and staff who are LGBTQ or allies, but also raised concern for some high-ranking members of the Catholic community.
“Marriage is not just a piece of paper, but a symbol of commitment, access to a vast number of legal rights, and public recognition as humans and adults in legitimate relationships,” said Delanie Harrington, sophomore English major and vice president of Spectrum, UD’s gay-straight alliance, in an email interview. “It means a step forward for people who have been forced into labels.”
Catholicism and Same-Sex Marriage
Although official Catholic Church teachings state that marriage is only between a man and a woman, a 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 75 percent of Catholics ages 18-29 support the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to The Huffington Post.
“Particularly being a Catholic university—and of course Catholics are divided on this issue—I think that dialogue is very important, even if the dialogue is difficult,” said Natalie Hudson, director of the human rights studies program and associate professor in the political science department, in a phone interview. “Conversation and dialogue creates understanding, enhances our community and embodies our commitment to human rights.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a news release criticizing the verdict.
“It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the news release.
However, the Catholic Church also states in its Catechism that all members of the Church should be accepting of and not discriminate against homosexual individuals.
“The Church also teaches that all people are to be valued because they’re created by God, no matter who they are,” said Crystal Sullivan, director of Campus Ministry at UD, in a phone interview. “It’s a pretty high priority for us on campus to recognize that while we’re in support of the Church’s teaching as a Catholic university, our community needs to be accepting of all people.”
Sullivan said when engaging in dialogue with other members of the community about LGBTQ issues, the primary priority should be to understand others, rather than to promote your own perspective.
“Respectful dialogue on any topic is about coming to the table without an agenda,” she said. “You don’t have to end the dialogue with an agreement, but you can end the dialogue with a greater understanding.”
LGBTQ Life at UD
“[Achieving equality for homosexual individuals] is not over, and it won’t be until we get rid of homophobia in society,” said Mike Brill, senior biology and political science major, SGA president and treasurer of Spectrum, in a phone interview. “On UD’s campus, we need to get people talking about the issues and get active in fighting homophobia.”
For example, Brill said, when students hear people using the words “gay,” “queer” or “homo” as slurs, they should speak up.
“Using derogatory terms to suggest that being LGBTQ is a negative thing is unnecessary, and even casual homophobia should be attended to,” Harrington said.
Brill also suggested engaging members of the community in respectful dialogue about LGBTQ issues.
“It goes a long way to talk to your friends and family about ‘here’s why I support the LGBTQ community and why you should too,’” Brill continued. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve seen such a dramatic shift in public opinion.”
Students can learn more about LGBTQ issues by attending Spectrum events and meetings, Brill said. Spectrum, as described on OrgSync, is “a group dedicated to advocating for the acceptance and respect of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in our community through creating a safe space and promoting awareness and education on campus.”
Spectrum currently has 78 members.
Although same-sex marriage is legal, the battle for equality is far from over, according to Harrington.
“While celebration is due,” Harrington said, “we still need to focus on mental health, youth homelessness (that is prevalent among LGBTQ youth), discrimination, bullying, etc.”