October 6, 2006

Panel urges students to take up fight against gay marriage ban

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Mica Bergman

Panel urges students to take up fight against gay marriage ban

A prominent Vanderbilt professor, the former president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), and two other distinguished panelists speaking Thursday in Light Hall urged roughly 200 doctors-in-training to defeat a state constitutional amendment that would definitively rule that marriage is a union between a man and woman.

Eight states have placed similar amendments on their respective ballots for the Nov. 7 election; Amendment I would further outlaw gay marriages in Tennessee while easing advocate concerns that the existing ban could be overturned in court.

“The fact is that it is illegal now and the whole point of this amendment is just to make it more illegal,” said Ellen Wright Clayton, M.D., co-director of Vanderbilt's Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society.

The amendment, one of two on the ballot, requires a majority vote from persons also voting in the Governor's race to pass. It is expected to pass in Tennessee and has the support of Democrat and Republican frontrunners in both the Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

A Vanderbilt 'Meet the Candidates' picnic is taking place on Olin Lawn today at noon.

Thursday's event, “Legalizing Discrimination: A Panel Discussion on Marriage Equality,” featured Clayton, former GLMA president Chris Harris, M.D., the Comprehensive Care Center's Victoria Harris and Vote NO on 1 campaign manager Randy Tarkington.

College students around the country have come out in opposition to the amendment, panelists said, with figures ranging 60 percent opposed at Vanderbilt to 75 percent of Hamilton College students in New York.

“Fear doesn't work on young people,” Tarkington said. “This generation believes in everyone being included. By enacting this amendment now, we really are giving our future leaders something they don't want.”

“I would like to think there is a difference between the definition of marriage in religion and the state,” said Andrea Li, VMS II. “The state isn't supposed to speak for religion and religion has the choice as to whether they define it as marriage or not.”

During the question and answer session one student asked why the opposition was not invited to the event.

“I would have liked to have had some [persons in support of the amendment] on the panel,” Glass said.