Views on homosexuality are changing

Denny Patterson

On Feb. 14, the Illinois State Senate voted 34-21 in favor of marriage equality. The bill, also known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, was then sent off to the Illinois House of Representatives. Last Tuesday, the Illinois House Executive Committee passed the bill with a 6-5 vote. The bill is now in the hands of the entire House of Representatives, and a vote is expected within the next couple of days. If approved and signed by Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois will be the tenth state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

College students today live in a generation where homosexuality isn’t a top secret issue anymore. Many grew up familiarized with the LGBTQ community. But when we think back 20-30 years ago, homosexuality wasn’t looked at as it is seen today.

“In the 80s, we were in the era of the AIDS epidemic,” said Dr. Rene Verry who joined Millikin’s faculty is 1984.  “At that point in time, AIDS was known as a gay disease. There were various views and arguments as to whether or not AIDS was a punishment from God. Homosexuality was seen as immoral and sinful, so the consequence was being punished. The culture didn’t talk about LGBTQ issues very much. People were ostracized and there was a bit of a stigma when someone tested positive or contracted AIDS.

“The gay population was seen as promiscuous as immoral in the sense that they were the worst sort of human being. Extreme stereotypes were the popular perception. When the civil rights movement happened in the late 60s, early 70s, the LGBTQ population began to advance a more public face and even then it was very much limited geographically.”

According to numerous surveys, more than a third of Americans say their views on homosexuality have changed – primarily on same-sex marriage. Currently, the nine states that allow same-sex marriage are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington. Washington D.C. is also on board.

A controversial topic that revolves around homosexuality is the government. Many question as to why the government should have any say in who has the right to marry. We all deserve equal rights, so why should politicians have any say?

“The federal government has the ability to ensure uniformity,” Verry said. “Prior to civil rights legislation, various kinds of laws restricted minorities what they could or couldn’t do within a state. States have always had a vested interest in contract relationships, and marriage is a contract relationship. It provides legal protection, safety and other responsibilities of that nature. In the U.S., you could choose to simply be married by the church, but it wouldn’t be legal in the sense without a marriage license from the state where you got married at. Things are slowly getting better. We still have a long way to go, and it’s long overdue to end that.”

Student Chet Lord-Remmert agrees.

I do believe the federal government should have a blanket law for marriage equality so that all marriages are recognized in every state,” he said. It’s uncomfortable to think that a couple can be recognized in Iowa, but not in its neighboring states.”

An even bigger issue is the topic of religion. The vast majority of the world’s population believes in some form of God or organized belief system that teaches about how one should live their life. Religion historically provides a means to understand the world around them. Unfortunately, religion seems to play as an antagonist to homosexuality.

“Institutional religions have generally been historically been the performers of marriage ceremonies,” Lord-Remmert said. “Even though the world population was much less in the 1600s, and the beliefs that the common household was a mother and father in order to survive, times have changed. We aren’t in that mindset anymore. We have a bigger population and bigger conditions. Religion teaches acceptance of all people, which confuses me as to why they are opposed to accepting any minority.”

Although discrimination may still be a serious issue, improvement is significant. With several states proposing bills to pass same-sex marriage, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and President Obama urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, the LGBTQ future is looking more optimistic every day. Statistics have shown that gay marriage is doing better than traditional marriage. The mindset of undermining traditional values is being knocked out of the ball park.

“I do believe that people are born gay,” Lord-Remmert said. “However, the conditions in which they grow up in have a great impact on how comfortable they are with themselves in the society that we provide for young children, which should always be welcoming and non-discriminatory. Change is always met with resistance. The more people are aware of the world around them, the better we all will be in the end.”