Kent State reacts to marriage equality

Neville Hardman

On June 26, the Supreme Court determined marriage equality was the law of the land in a 5-4 ruling, and Portage County Public Records subsequently made changes to marriage licenses. The license, previously reading bride and groom, switched to first and second applicant. Since the ruling, more than six same-sex couples have married in the county. 

Facebook profile pictures sported rainbow filters on that day and for weeks beyond, and other social media flooded with hashtags, such as #LoveWins and #LoveIsLove. 

What it means

Professor Molly Taggart’s Gender and Communication class was in session when the ruling was decided.

“You’re living in the before,” Taggart said during a recent class. “Now you’re living in the during. Now you’re living in the after.”

Taggart and her wife were married in Washington D.C., during the last week of March 2013.

Upon getting married, they were taxed on a federal level, Taggart said. On a state level, they were taxed as separate people because Ohio did not recognize their marriage. They did not receive tax benefits and paid more out of pocket for time with an accountant to get their affairs in order, she said. The pair will now be considered spouses on their health insurance, she said.

“Even beyond that, it feels nice to feel human and have our humanity respected,” Taggart said. “It elevates us in our relationship to the stance with everyone else.”

Molly Merryman, an associate professor of sociology and coordinator of LGBT studies, said people can expect to see families changing. In the past, only one person could act as the legal parent and the ruling resolves adoption issues. 

“What we’re seeing is that these laws have restricted people from forming family relationships in a meaningful, legal way,” Merryman said.

Kent State reacts

“A friend actually came into my room and we both kind of cried together,” said Brandon Stephens, president of Pride! Kent. 

Stephens, a senior criminology and justice studies major, said he felt respected and proud to see the country taking a step forward.

Taggart sat at home watching the news with her wife, clasping each other’s arms and crying. She said it was a totally emotional moment for them. 

Merryman and her partner were traveling in Greece for a conference when they saw the news. Merryman said she continuously checked for updates throughout the week to see if the ruling would go the way she hoped. She said she was excited because she had not been around for an event that joined other important social justice landmarks, like the Civil Rights Act. 

“I always felt that in my lifetime there hadn’t been anything of that power, so it’s really exciting to be alive at this point in history when our government is recognizing equality,” Merryman said.

What’s next

“(Students) can expect us to come into it and feel rejuvenated,” Stephens said. “They’ll see us switch gears and focus on other issues.”

Stephens said the most important tool is education. He encourages people to ask questions, come to a Pride! meeting, located in the Governance Chambers on Thursdays, or stop by their office in the Student Center to talk.

“The most effective way we can support one another is learning from one another,” Stephens said.

Devin Walters, a junior sociology major and a member of Pride! Kent, said gender-inclusive housing combined with marriage equality will make for a stronger campus this year, but there are still other issues to address.

“We’re closer,” Walters said. “This is a great milestone, but we’re not equal yet and that’s what people need to see.”

American Civil Liberties Union states that 19 states have an employment non-discrimination law in place that protects sexual orientation and gender identity. Three additional states only protect sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. Ohio is in neither category of a statewide law. 

According to Equality Ohio, it’s legal to be fired from a job and denied housing and services, such as going to a restaurant or movie theatre, within the state. 

A new bill attempting to end discrimination plans to be introduced for legislature to consider in the 2015-2016 year, according to the website.

Taggart said a marriage license is a “Catch-22” in a way because of the possibilities same-sex couples are subjected to after getting married. 

“Truly, in the eyes of the law, you’ve outed yourself,” Taggart said.

Merryman said while she can now start discussing marriage with her partner, she doesn’t want to until everyone in Ohio is protected.

“It makes me uncomfortable to have rights that can’t be gleaned by everyone,” Merryman said. 

Merryman said it’s important to students to educate themselves on the issues and they have opportunities to advocate by supporting campus organizations, such as Pride! Kent and Trans*Fusion.

“I think there is going to be a more energetic, happy response because this is a tremendous victory and a tremendous acknowledgement that our lives matter,” Merryman said.

Contact Neville Hardman at [email protected].