College Democrats hold meeting to discuss LGBT political issues

Cameron Hoover

The Kent State College Democrats held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss political and legislative issues pertaining to the LGBT community.

The main talking point of the evening was the First Amendment Defense Act, which states that the federal government cannot discriminate against an individual for refusing services to specific groups because of his or her religious beliefs. Critics have argued that this piece of legislation discriminates against homosexuals.

The night began as speaker Ellen Morales, a senior communication studies major, flipped through a PowerPoint presentation to discuss certain aspects of political speech that affects members of the LGBT community. First, she listed off a number of items that the community was still fighting against, such as workplace discrimination, housing discrimination and others.

After a comprehensive rundown of anti-LGBT hate groups and an explanation of the current pro-LGBT legislation supported by the Human Rights Campaign, the floor opened for debate. The back and forth was vivacious, with civil opinions being bounced across the room as responses were fired back just as quickly.

“It’s the best when people are engaged (and) have questions,” said Anthony Erhardt, the president of the College Democrats. “When people come with their differing views, that’s the best environment in my opinion.”

The debate quickly turned to the question of the constitutionality of the First Amendment Defense Act. Attendees grappled with this question for about 15 minutes before the debate turned into a solution-finding exercise at the end. The group asked themselves: What can we do as Democrats to get more LGBT people in office or involved in politics?

Erhardt stressed the importance of a level head when speaking to those of opposing ideologies about LGBT issues.

“Once you use the word ‘bigot,’ it’s all over. They’re done listening to you,” he said.

Laura Green, a junior digital media production major, said the topics discussed at the event encourage debate amongst people from both sides of the political spectrum.

“It makes people feel like they’re being listened to. We all have our own stories,” Green said. “Just because you may not agree with someone’s choices or you may not understand them exactly, as a fellow human, it’s good to hear people out and try to empathize with them on a basic level.”

Morales says she feels the need to educate people on LGBT political issues because that is the first step away from ignorance.

“A lot of social issues come down to how people are educated about them,” she said. “I’ve had friends in the community who have had friends and family say that they’d never support them, but as soon as they came out and presented them with research, it opened their eyes.”

Erhardt, a senior paralegal studies major, continued by reiterating that these issues were important to many people and were not going away soon.

“It’s something that is still an issue. It’s something we are still fighting for,” he said. “We need to make sure people are informed about what’s happening and what we can do to stop it.”

Morales said the most important thing to remember is that the legislation being presented in Congress doesn’t just affect the LGBTQ community at Kent State.

“This is on a federal level,” she said. “This is an issue across the country and across the world that politicians are making laws for and against and we need to shed some light on that.”

Erhardt wanted everyone in attendance to realize that “the fight is not over.”

“We can’t rest on our laurels and become complacent,” he said. “We have marriage equality, and that’s great, but there is still a lot more to fight for.”

Cameron Hoover is a general assignment reporter, contact him at [email protected]