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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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BG to host gay marriage conference

In light of current social and political trends in the nation, the University will host four speakers for an evidence-based conference to discuss some of the key issues raised in the debate over same-sex marriage.

The conference “Same-Sex Marriage: On the Frontiers of Legal and Social Change,” will be held today from 2:00 – 6:15 p.m. in room 308 of the Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Two panelists will be looking at political and legal issues, while the other two look at the social science side, said Laura Sanchez, event moderator and associate professor in the department of sociology.

“We were very mindful of selecting people who are very active in the area,” she said. “We rarely as a campus community have the opportunity to have a dialogue about something that is as visible and important as this social phenomenon.”

The speakers represent a wide range of research areas on the topic of same-sex marriage in America, said Susan Brown, associate professor in the department of sociology.

Andrew Koppelman is a professor of law and political science at Northwestern University. He has expertise in constitutional law and political philosophy and has written widely on gay rights in contemporary American law.

Katherine Spaht is a professor at Louisiana State University and has worked with the state legislature to draft Louisiana’s marriage legislation. She has also written on the role law plays in the regulation of marriage.

Judith Stacey is professor of sociology at New York University and writes on gay and lesbian family relationships. She has been an activist for families and has contributed to thinking about reconfiguring the role of family life in America.

Jennifer Roback Morse is an economist and research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and has both philosophical and policy interests in the role of family in a free society.

The topic for the conference was chosen last semester because of the attention it has drawn during the presidential election and the nationwide issue of changing family values, Sanchez said.

Last year alone, 4,000 gay couples were married in San Francisco. But on the opposition, 18 states currently have banned gay marriage, Sanchez said.

“I think it’s very in the currently consciousness,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we looked at legal and political issues surrounding gay marriage and also what social and political science tells us about gay marriage.”

Opponents to same-sex marriage have advocated a U.S. constitution amendment to make it illegal.

Religious groups have been speaking against same-sex marriage arguing that it violates biblical codes while other churches have been recognizing and performing gay marriages.

Scholars have been debating the effects same-sex marriage have on the couple’s children and their attitudes, gender preferences, self-esteem and psychological well-being.

Although students may not be directly affected by gay marriage, chances are, they will know someone who is, Sanchez said. It’s important to be informed about an issue like this especially when students are part of the voting population.

“It’s important academically because as social scientists, we’re trying to understand the rapid family change that has occurred in U.S. society over the past 30 years,” Brown said. “This is an issue that has been making news in the past several years and will continue to in the future.”

The key factor in the conference is that the conference is fact based, not opinion based, Sanchez said.

“Although many people have strong emotional and religious views, they actually have very few facts about it,” Sanchez said. “This is an opportunity to learn exactly why this is such the phenomenon that it is.”

The scholars will not present their opinions, only facts from their research, Brown said.

“We’re trying to present the best evidence out there that is designed in an academic research base,” she said. “This is not just somebody’s opinion, but based on factual information and data that is gathered.”

Through faculty research for the Center for Family and Demographic Research on campus, the University is considered a viable source for information on this topic, Brown said.

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