Social issues stir crowd

Simon Husted

Democrats, Republicans swap opinions

Members of the Kent State College Democrats and College Republicans met in the Kiva last night to debate recent political issues. Topics included environmental policies, giving aid to Israel and the health care bill. Glennis Siegfried | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

The “Left vs. Right” debate covered a range of topics in the Kiva last night, but it was the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that erupted a fury of angry shouts from the crowd.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a military policy that discharges U.S. soldiers who openly admit to being gay or lesbian.

During the debate’s question-and-answer session among a crowd of nearly 200 students, one audience member asked Vince Tilenni of the College Republicans to elaborate his view. In prepared questions, Tilenni was against repealing the military policy.

“You said if we repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ that every gay person (in the military) will turn into a one-person pride float,” the audience member said.

She then asked Tilenni what evidence he had that proved Britain’s military is now weaker because its government permits gay people to serve openly.

She then added that soldiers have far bigger concerns than the sexuality of the soldier next to them.

“Of course,” Tilenni replied. “But some of the points I made was about start lowering standards – taking the focus off the real thing which is about serving your country. It’s about being there to do your job, not about people’s sexual orientation.”

The audience member shortly countered his reply, and more audience members joined in the dialogue.

Tilenni continued to try elaborating his viewpoint.

“What it sounds like is they want to impose themselves (the gay or lesbian soldiers),” said Tilenni, adding that he knows gay and lesbian soldiers who are also opposed to other soldiers flaunting their sexuality.

One audience member hastily interrupted Tilenni and asked if he thought it was fair for her to be denied from the military because she had a girlfriend.

“You can talk about your girlfriend, but I can’t?” she asked.

After three minutes of shouting among three people against and six to seven people for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Steven Scerbovsky, president of Kent Political Union and monitor of the event, finally cut the heated exchange and blocked all questions relating to gay rights for the remainder of the audience question-and-answer session.

“A part of me did think it was reaching a point where it could get out of hand,” Scerbovsky said after the debate.

In the debate, the left side was comprised of four members of College Democrats and three members of College Republicans and one member of College Libertarians were on the right.

Other topics discussed were health-care reform, a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the merits of President Barack Obama and former presidents from George Bush that went back as far as Ronald Reagan.

The two sides of the debate tended to hold their party lines, with the College Libertarian member dissenting on such issues as gay marriage and “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Contact news correspondent Simon Husted at [email protected]