With the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, some members of USF’s LGBT community arenow breathing sighs of relief.
Historic change was set into motion Wednesday morning with the Supreme Court striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act that federally defined marriage as between a man and a woman and ruling California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
A few members of USF’s LGBT community spoke with The Oracle to discuss what the rulings mean to them.
Reminiscing on the inner struggles he felt as a high school student trying to accept his sexual orientation, Luke Blankenship, USF PRIDE Alliance president and a sophomore majoring in advertising, said he sees Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling as a catalyst for acceptance of the LGBT community from those who currently oppose equal rights.
“What happened today was huge,” Blankenship said. “It seems like it is escalating rather quickly now. So many states have already legalized same-sex marriage in the last election and now the Supreme Court is now stepping up.”
Though he is currently single, he said today’s events have opened his future up to many opportunities.
“It definitely changes my mentality about getting married,” he said. “If I were to move to a state that legalizes same sex marriage, there would be much more of an incentive for me to pursue marriage with my future partner.”
He said he feels Wednesday’s events will hopefully not only change the course of history to allow marriage equality, but also encourage more empathy from those not experiencing the same struggles.
“Marriage equality is a fundamental right,” he said. “States should not have a say in civil rights issues or determine whom people should love.”
While many may see yesterday’s events as a symbol of change in the perception of the LGBT community or of equal rights, Lennox Archer said he feels there are still battles left to fight.
“I don’t expect this to be like a light switch moment where suddenly
everybody’s accepting,” Archer, an instructor in the world languages department said. “I think the opposition will still fight for their beliefs. However, I think that yesterday’s actions give the LGBT community a fighting chance and the powers that be in this country are beginning to understand that all people are people, and deserving of equal treatment.”
Archer said many may see the rulings as a win for the gay community, but in
reality it is a win for many individuals who are in the minority and may have their rights overlooked as well.
Archer said he has had many battles through his life, not only as a teenager
struggling with his sexual identity, but also as an adult struggling with his gender identity.
Often times tossed aside from the gay community, transgender individuals
are fighting their own battle of social acceptance, he said.
Though Archer and his fiancÃ©e, who is also transgender, now meet the social standards of a man engaged to a woman, both are trying to work through all of the loopholes to explore what options they have as a transgender couple.
“There is so much red tape,” he said. “It’s so frustrating, because for most people it is so easy to go and say, ‘I love this person. I want to spend my life with them,’ while for others, there are so many obstacles that still stand in the way.”
Though Archer said he is optimistic with the events, he knows there will still
be battles, which he said he is ready to continue fighting.
Van Hoda, a religious studies and classical civilizations major, said he used to see the gay community as “the dreaded Others, with a capital O.”
“I wasn’t a part of that,” he said. “I was me. I was myself.”
However, when he got older, he said he realized that was who he was, and there was no “Other.”
“I never stopped to think my life was going to be different because I was gay,” Hoda said. “I was always going to be that person, and I never had to stop to change my trajectory of my life.”
Coming to USF, Hoda said he always felt welcome in the community with LGBT organizations on campus, such as the PRIDE Alliance. Outside USF, he said he believes the misunderstanding and opponents of gay marriage are scared and frustrated in understanding an alternate lifestyle.
“Most people are just really frightened and can’t move past the sexual aspect of it. Now through the media, and individuals taking a stand, the world is starting to see us as average Joes.”
He said he was always an optimist and believes “whatever is meant to happen, will happen.”
For example, the issue of gay marriage.
Regardless of Supreme Court’s decision, Hoda said he would’ve gotten married on his own terms.
To him, it’s not a legal issue, but a spiritual one.
“This is my personal thing, and I don’t expect other people to conform to it,” he said.