Students advocate gay rights

For many students, marriage is a right. For gay and lesbian students, it’s a right they don’t have.

This week has been important to the USF gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.

On Tuesday, the Pride Alliance and the Queer Student Activist Caucus held mock wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. The same groups held a protest that weaved across campus and made its way to the corner of Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard on Wednesday.Events will end today. Pride members will hand out bracelets for Same-Sex Hand Holding Day in front of Cooper Hall until supplies last. There will also be a movie shown in Cooper Hall Room 126 at 8 p.m.

Hannah Springer, who officiated for the wedding ceremonies, sees these demonstrations as a responsible way to practice civil disobedience and stand up for what she believes in.

“Hopefully, this will increase visibility for the gay community and marriage equality,” Springer said.

Justine Hyde also sees the demonstrations as the politically responsible thing to do. She has been an outspoken advocate for the gay community by speaking to various media outlets such as Bay News 9 and National Public Radio.

Hyde believes legal marriages should be issued solely by the government.”Marriage shouldn’t be limited by religion,” Hyde said.

Yvonne Castellanos attended both events. However, she didn’t get married Tuesday because she said she is already married to her girlfriend.

Castellanos said she often is faced with confusion when people hear she is married. She tries to educate people about her life and culture.

“A lot of people just aren’t comfortable with it,” Castellanos said. “When you get up in their face, they’ll become more comfortable and realize it’s not that big of a deal.”

Castellanos is offended when people in the mainstream view her as different because of her sexuality.

“We and them, what the hell does that mean?” Castellanos said as she painted signs for the protest in front of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. “We have the same values.”

Vanessa Ruiz, the president of the Pride Alliance, was pleased with the turnout at the events.

Seventeen couples got married in the mock ceremonies, and Ruiz said 10 people had joined the protest by the time they left the school. She also said that people were very positive about a concert held on Monday to begin the week’s events.

Ruiz also said that most of the reactions to the protest were positive, but there were some negative reactions from drivers as they passed by.

“We had some people shouting from cars, but you couldn’t exactly hear them,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz hopes the demonstrations bring attention to gay marriage rights. She also hopes that it will bring attention to the prejudice and stereotypes that are often used against the GLBT community.

Ruiz said while the USF community usually supports the Pride Alliance, others in the county can be somewhat negative towards them. She also said that people who react negatively to lesbians and gays often get away with it more than if they were against another group of people.

“To be outwardly racist, you get a lot of (backlash) for it,” Ruiz said. “For homophobics, they can say, ‘I’m just kidding.'”