The original photo caption of this story incorrectly named the moderator. The person was Father Kevin Augustyn, 1/27/10.
While the dispute o.f same-sex marriage continues to spread throughout the nation, the director of Campus Ministry at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center says it is possible for society to have a civilized argument about a heated topic.
“We can come together and create dialogue to understand both sides of an issue with kindness and respect for one another,” Father Kevin Augustyn said during his speech at the “Great Debate” on Monday. “This is a big part of why we host these debates.”
Hosted by the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, the third- annual “Great Debate” began at 7 p.m. Monday in CU’s Chemistry 140 with this year’s theme, “Should the Government Approve Same-Sex Marriage?”
The audience took their seats as guest speaker Jonathan Rauch, a same-sex marriage supporter, stepped on stage to deliver his opening remarks for this year’s debate.
“All men are created equal and I am here to defend those words,” Rauch said during his opening speech.
Maggie Gallagher, who opposes same-sex marriage, followed Rauch’s opening remarks and discussed the debated question of same-sex unions.
“I’m against discrimination but I do not think same-sex unions are marriages,” Gallagher said during her opening speech. “This male and female thing, there’s just something unique and necessary about it.”
Following the opening remarks, each speaker would be allotted a seven minute rebuttal, Augustyn said during his speech.
Rauch said in his rebuttal that a same-sex marriage would have no effect on a heterosexual marriage.
“So many people against gay marriage fear that it will take away from heterosexual marriages and redefine its meaning,” Rauch said. “I don’t think a man plus women marriage will fail to form because a man plus man marriage forms.”
Rauch also said that without gay marriage, marriage would be redefined as a “civil rights violation.”
Gallagher responded with a rebuttal on the definition of marriage.
“What’s hard for me to get is how it’s hard for you to get that you would be changing the understanding of marriage for everyone,” Gallagher said. “Marriage is a pledge between a man and a woman and the symbol of marriage will be different if there is gay marriage.”
During his closing statement, Rauch said he believed same-sex marriages did no harm to heterosexual marriages.
“How would my marriage ever hurt your marriage?” Rauch said during his closing speech. “The only harm you will have is that people who don’t like gay marriage will have to live with gay marriage.”
Gallagher was allotted a five minute closing statement.
“From my point of view, I am not harming these couples by denying their right to marriage,” Gallagher said. “I’d like you all to consider the possibility that those 7 million people voting for Prop 8 were not voting for hate or harm.”
Following the closing statements, the debate was open to the audience for questions.
Reverend Roger Wolsey, director of the Wesley Fellowship of the Wesley Chapel, said he and hundreds of students attended the event to foster a peaceful counter protest to the anti-gay protest of the Westboro Baptist Church and the slogan, “God hates fags.”
According to the Westboro Church Web site, the church, led by Reverend Fred Phelps, was scheduled to picket against same-sex marriage outside of the debate but never showed.
“If they manifest hate, the only way to remedy that is to radiate and manifest love,” Wolsey said. “I brought some candy so I’m going to give them a Snicker’s bar and a hug.”
Alexa Ankele, 19-year-old sophomore English major, said she joined the counter protest in support of gay rights.
“Hatred is never good,” Ankele said. “Our plan is to be silent a drop a flower at their feet to symbolize peace.”
Ankele said she felt the debate had the potential to become a one-sided argument.
“I’m not happy about the people who sponsored this debate,” Ankele said. “If they are going to have a debate like this, both sides need to be represented equally.”
Scott Steele, 19-year-old sophomore advertising major, said he thought the debate was beneficial and fostered conversation and awareness of the issue.
“When done under a civilized manner, debates can draw positive attention to issues that are so underrepresented,” Steele said.
While some were in support of the debate, the GLBT Resource Center was a bit more skeptical, according to a news release from the GLBT Resource Center.
“To clarify, we are not sponsoring or supporting the debate in any way,” the GLBT Resource Center said in the release. “It is our firm belief that there is no debate to be had about whether or not the GLBT citizens should be treated fairly or equally in society and under the law.”
Kevin Correa, assistant director for the GLBT Resource Center, said he felt debates on the issue of same sex-marriage could be beneficial to draw attention but said he also had some other concerns.
“Our main concern is coming from the angle of having to witness one’s own personal civil rights being debated,” Correa said. “That in itself can do harm.”
Augustyn said in a one-on-one interview with the CU Independent after the debate that it had not gone as he had planned.
Augustyn said that he was surprised by some of the positions the speakers held.
“Our main goal for the debate was to come together to create a rational and civilized discussion,” Augustyn said. “It didn’t exactly live up to my expectations…well, it had some good and some bad.”
Visit the St. Thomas Aquinas Center Web site for more information on the speakers and a complete schedule of upcoming lectures.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Kylie Horner at Kylie.email@example.com.