On campus, same-sex marriages draw support

Remember logging into Facebook on March 26? Maybe the date isn’t memorable, but the image is. March 26 is when millions of individual profile pictures changed from their personal photos to a small red square.

Red equality signs “took over” news feeds across the nation.

Norwich students contributed to the roughly 2.7 million Americans, scored by the Facebook Data Science Team, that changed their profile pictures to support the Human Rights Campaign for same-sex marriage. The spread of the two-day Supreme Court debate onto social media became an opportunity for students to express their opinions and offer their solutions to the national debate.

This red equality sign replaced numerous facebook profile pictures on March 26th in support of same-sex marriage.

This red equality sign replaced numerous facebook profile pictures on March 26th in support of same-sex marriage.

“One of my friends messaged me and said, ‘I need to talk to you about your profile picture, ASAP’,” said Daniel Colón, a 20-year-old sophomore international studies and Spanish major from Boynton Beach, Fla. They had a two-hour-long debate on the idea of marriage.

The Supreme Court cases being argued involved California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. The first was on the ban of same-sex marriage in California after it had been allowed and the latter considered the definition of marriage itself.

Colón changed his profile picture in support of his brother, who has not openly told his family that he is gay. “We don’t actually talk about it, but I’m hoping that it will start a conversation with him,” he said.

His family comes from a Christian background, but Colón’s opinion is that being gay or lesbian is biologically based. “Me and my brother were raised (believing) that homosexuality is a sin and look at him. I don’t think he became anything, I think he became himself,” he said. “He became who he really is.”

“Marriage is what is described in the Bible, a man and a woman coming together,” Colón said. “Now we’re dealing with a social issue that does conflict with religion,” he said, which is cause for disagreement as a nation. Right now, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a decision left up to the states to make. Human rights activists and gay rights supporters hope for a united stance to extend equal rights to same-sex couples following the 2013 hearing.

The nation should hear rulings on both matters by the end of June, according to the Associated Press.

“At a school like Norwich, I’m sure there are a lot of people that will breathe a little easier knowing that everything’s moving forward,” Colón said. “A better direction for everyone.”

“I personally changed my photo because I’m gay, I thought I needed to,” said Nicholas Tebbetts, a 20-year-old sophomore history and political science major from Shrewsbury, Mass.

“Eventually, I plan on getting married,” he said. “I would probably get married in my home state, which does allow (me) the right to marriage, but I would be denied federal benefits.”

Rhode Island is another New England state on the way to becoming the 10th in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. A lesbian Norwich couple from the state looks forward to when the nation stands together on marriage equality.

“I think it’s essential for the unity of our country. No matter what it is, if it’s gay marriage, if it is gun laws, if it is still race because there are still people that have that issue. People should get over it because we’re all American, we all live in the same country, and personally being in the military, we’re all fighting the same battle,” said Daniella Vitale, 20-year-old sophomore business management major from Providence, R.I. , who is dating Karissa Lefebrve.

The couple has been best friends since high school and has faced serious struggles because of their sexual orientation. “I can say first hand, it’s not a choice,” said Lefebvre, a 19-year-old sophomore criminal justice major from North Smithfield, R.I.

“I tried so hard to be straight for my mother and for my family so I didn’t have to disappoint them, but you can’t deny what’s natural, you can’t deny your feelings,” she said.

“We came here for freedom and freedom of religion,” said Lefebvre, referring to the American experience in found a colony.

“From a religious point of view, a lot of people say America is a Christian nation, but you have to remember that Christians differ on this belief too. Catholics are against it, but then you have Episcopalians and many other Christian branches who are pro same-sex marriage,” Tebbetts said.

This is an issue that is making a mark on American history equal to the discrimination against African-Americans and women, Lefebvre said.

Religion is not the only battlefront in same-sex marriage. Seeing same-sex couples brings people out of their comfort zone, Vitale explained.

“I want to have a family, a nice home, and a wife just like the next guy or girl,” Lefebvre said. “We all want the same things pretty much and when you’re denied that it’s like you’re not really living.”

The decision on whether or not LGBT couples’ pronunciation of the words “I do” has significance in this country has been a political issue since the 1990s. “At Norwich people are affected by this, especially the gay community. They get denied a lot of benefits given to members of the military,” Tebbetts said.

“It’s definitely unjust. We have the 14th amendment, which provides for equal protection under the law and that’s not currently happening,” he said.

“People say you’re not going to get marriage because marriage is a religious thing,” Tebbetts said about the national recognition of same-sex marriage. “Then why do you deny benefits to (homosexual) people in the military or get fired from a job? Neither of those have anything to do with religion,” he said.

Vitale graduated from United States Army basic training last summer. If Vitale and Lefebvre decided to get married, Lefebvre couldn’t receive marriage rights and benefits offered to straight married couples with a spouse in the military.

“Forty years down the road, people are going to look so foolish,” said Rebecca Weaver, a 20-year-old junior computer security major from Newport, R.I. Weaver attended Catholic school growing up and she changed her profile picture to the equality sign to show that “we’re not all like that.”

Her parents are severely against same-sex marriage. She saw friends and family members change their profile pictures and that gave her the courage to do the same.

When Tebbetts logged onto Facebook and saw that his friends had changed their profile pictures to the red image, it was heartening for him to see it happen so quickly and from people who do not necessarily agree with romantic same-sex relationships.

A student that prefers to remain anonymous clicked to change his profile photo in support of his mom who is getting married this summer to her girlfriend. He believes everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and although it does not affect him he “knows it means a lot to other people who are trying to fight for it.”

“It brings out all the tension,” Lefebvre said about her observations of the subject on Facebook.

“When people saw it, they wanted to voice their opinion on how they felt about it. It blew up,” said Shelby Descauteux, 20, a sophomore computer security and information assurance major from Nashua, N.H.

“Just because you are against gay marriage doesn’t make you a bad person,” Tebbetts said.

“People were yelling at someone who (posted) an inequality sign on Facebook and I supported him because everyone’s entitled to their own view,” he said.

Descauteux admitted not knowing the specifics of the cases being discussed at the Supreme Court, but she knew they were discussing issues of gay rights and that’s why she changed her profile picture to the equality sign.

“Make a compromise,” she said referring to people that bump heads on this problem.

“It’s like this: I like dill pickles and you like sweet and sour pickles. It’s how your taste buds are, kind of how your brain works. I don’t choose to not like sweet and sour pickle just like I don’t choose to not like males, it’s just how I am,” she said.

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