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PRIDE holds mock weddings on campus

In a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, a group of USF students did just the opposite.

The People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality (PRIDE) Alliance held mock weddings for anyone who wished to get married, regardless of sexual orientation, at the “Freedom to Marry” event Monday outside the Marshall Student Center.

Between 75 and 100 students took turns standing under an arch of rainbow balloons, while Lara McDermott, president of PRIDE read wedding vows.

USF students Jordan Stafford and George McCaughan were first to participate.

“It’s a protest to show there is no religious institution of marriage,” said Stafford, a freshman majoring in social science education. “We should have the freedom to marry whoever.”

McCaughan, a junior majoring in international business, said his participation was to show support for equality.

The event, which was created about five years ago, was held to raise awareness of inequalities faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied (LGBTQA) community, including adoption.

Florida is the only state with an outright adoption ban for homosexuals.

“There are couples who raise children together, and when one parent passes away, that other parent has no legal standing in that child’s life,” she said.

On April 9-11, PRIDE will join other LGBTQA groups for the Florida Collegiate Pride Conference at the University of Central Florida.

At the conference, the groups will plan a trip to lobby Tallahassee lawmakers, said McDermott, a junior majoring in criminology.

Same-sex marriage is recognized in five states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Hiram Ramirez, a multicultural community adviser, said he worries about legislation that bans same-sex marriage.

“People don’t understand how peoples’ lives are impacted by a single piece of legislation,” said Ramirez, a graduate student majoring in education. “No matter what sexual orientation you are, you should still support it.”

Much of the debate over same-sex marriage deals with the sanctity of marriage, which is often abused, McDermott said

“Britney Spears’ 55-hour-long marriage was perfectly legal, but a 50-year-old gay couple are out of luck,” she said.

But USF student Eric McCray said although he isn’t bothered by same-sex marriage, he understands opposing views.

“In some aspects, it’s alright legally, but from a religious standpoint, it’s not alright,” said McCray, a junior majoring in sign language interpretation.

Shawna Feinman, a junior majoring in environmental science and policy, thinks there’s a positive end in sight.

“I know it’s controversial right now, but eventually we’ll look back and be appalled how we denied these human beings these rights,” she said.

Participants at Monday’s event received a photograph and a mock marriage certificate, and McDermott wants others to get something, too.

“Even if they don’t understand the LGBTQ for equality and can’t fathom what’s going on, I just want them to respect the fact that we’re here – we have family,” she said. “Love is the same and should have equal protection under the law.”