Students on campus voiced their opinions on United States Supreme Court oral arguments regarding California Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
A recent ABC News-Washington Post poll reported that 58 percent of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage and that more than 81 percent of American adults under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage.
David Cruz, a professor of law at the Gould School of Law, attended the hearings in Washington, D.C. this week as a member of the Supreme Court Bar. He said the youngest generation of voters is more supportive of same-sex marriage because of more frequent portrayals of homosexuality in the media and the greater number of openly gay Americans.
“Familiarity breeds comfort,” Cruz said. “More people who are young now grew up being aware of gay people and knowing gay people. [Also], greater visibility in media, whether in news or popular entertainment, contributes to a social climate where there’s less prejudice towards LGBT people.”
Cruz said that the same-sex marriage debate is different from other social issues in the United States’ past and points to the Washington, D.C. hearings as a pivotal moment in our history.
“The Supreme Court has never decided just how skeptical courts should be when government discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and has never decided how protective the courts should be against anti-gay discrimination,” Cruz said. “So, there are a lot of open issues here.”
Cruz said the Supreme Court’s decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA will particularly affect USC students moving into the future.
“Often, people meet the person that they fall in love with and want to marry in college,” Cruz said. “If the court agrees that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, then that option, which same-sex couples don’t currently have in California, would be restored.”
Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center at USC, was on campus when Prop 8 passed in 2008, banning same-sex marriage in California.
“[Many USC students] were shocked because they believed that everyone was very supportive of gay and bisexual people,” Vigil said. “But when you step outside the gates of USC, there are people that hate you because you’re gay.”
Some students are aware of the many possible outcomes that the case can take and hope the Supreme Court will make changes to current policies.
“I am for gay marriage to be legalized,” said Samantha Close, a first-year doctorate student in communication. “Although it sounds like the Supreme Court is more likely to throw out the case due to lack of standing rather than rule on it, which I think is sad since they took all the time to hear it.”
Giuseppe Robalino, a freshman majoring in business administration, said he is against the legalization of same-sex marriage but thinks civil unions should be equal legally.
“The law needs to be fully representative of the population as a whole, and you’re not doing that when you are trying to redefine marriage as it has already been defined in federal code,” Robalino said. “We need to step back and realize that there are two sides to the story and both should be represented. What we do not have room for is hatred on both sides.”
To Lisa O’Kane, a first-year student in the pre-medical post-baccalaureate program, the Court’s decision will have a lasting personal impact.
“I’m gay, and I’d like to get married someday,” O’Kane said. “I think DOMA and Proposition 8 are important cases that need to be heard and reheard. If [the Supreme Court] hears them and goes along with the Constitution, it’ll be a very big day for everyone in America, gay or straight. “
The Supreme Court is not expected to make a ruling on either issue until June.