Stater columnist sparks discussion about LGBT rights

Cody Francis

Prop 8 also at front of debate

Same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, LGBT awareness and a Daily Kent Stater column were among the issues discussed in the Student Center last night at “Campus Conversations: That’s so gay.”

Frank Robinson, residential education coordinator for Residence Services, said the event was supposed to be “a vibrant, exciting conversation with people not only agreeing, but disagreeing as well.”

Disagreement was the case when a column by Stephen Ontko from the Nov. 18 edition of the Daily Kent Stater, “Strengthening marriage was an Election Day victory,” was brought to attention.

The column was about same- sex marriage. The particular section discussed was the end, which said: “Any attempt to legislate ‘civil partnerships,’ adoption by homosexual partners, and definitions of marriage, which include homosexual relationships, must be stopped so that future generations will be able to pursue true happiness according to moral law and in order to promote an ever more healthy, stable society based on those principles.”

The discussion of the column took up most of the event and outraged some of those in attendance.

“Even though the column was anti-gay marriage, it came across as completely anti-gay,” said Leora Rzepka, senior school health education major and president of PRIDE! Kent. “It almost felt like hate speech. Getting rid of a group of people, Nazis do those kind of things.”

Kiera Manion-Fischer, forum editor of the Stater, let those in attendance know the column does not reflect the Stater’s views, just those of the columnist.

“I let the column run because it represents viewpoint diversity, and that includes viewpoints that some people find offensive,” Manion-Fischer said. “I give my columnists a lot of freedom to write what they want.”

Adam Griffiths, managing editor of the Stater, said editors sometimes want readers to get mad.

“Editors know what’s going to fire up a community,” Griffiths said. “It is about conversation generating more than anything.”

Generating conversation, Robinson said, is the main reason the Campus Conversations are held.

Not all those in attendance were upset with the column. Some said it was a good thing the column was printed because it gives others a chance to respond, which they should take advantage of.

“If members of the LGBT community don’t respond to this, it can sit and leave hate in the community,” biology graduate student Dan Sprockett said.

The discussion about same- sex marriage led to other discussions, such as the use of common law marriage. Students said religion should not be coupled with the idea of marriage.

“The difference between atheists and gays is atheists can go to a judge to get married, but gays can’t,” Sprockett said.

The event led some to ask questions about what the current generation of college students is doing to change the current laws concerning same sex marriage.-

“We can’t just sit around and complain about what other people are doing,” freshman pre-journalism major Ana Belen Villalobos said. “We have to do something and speak up so people can hear us.”

Contact room and board reporter Cody Francis at [email protected].