Political Science Symposium Hosts Gay Marriage Debate

March 31, 2010  

Lorie L. Burch, attorney at Burch Law firm, argues for the legalization of same-sex marriage during a debate held Tuesday night in the Hughes-Trigg Theater.  The debate was hosted by the SMU Political Science Symposium. (PHOTO BY COLIN HOGAN / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

Lorie L. Burch, attorney at Burch Law firm, argues for the legalization of same-sex marriage during a debate held Tuesday night in the Hughes-Trigg Theater. The debate was hosted by the SMU Political Science Symposium. (PHOTO BY COLIN HOGAN / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

Alex Meaker
ameaker@smu.edu

The Political Science Symposium hosted a debate on the legalization of same sex marriage Tuesday evening as their annual spring debate for the SMU community. Arguing for the legalization of same sex marriage was Lorie Burch, an attorney for the Burch Law Firm.  Arguing against the legalization of same sex marriage was Hiram Sasser, the Director of Litigation at the Liberty Institution.

The spring debate crowd normally filled with political science students and few others included many adults and SMU staff members this year, curious to hear the sides of the debate on this controversial subject.

“Each year since 1984, the Political Science Symposium has shown that as a collective we can discuss emotional and controversial topics with civility and mutual respect,” moderator and political science professor Dr. Dennis Simon said about the annual spring debate.

Burch began the debate, telling a story of her own marriage of two years to a man named James. “I know I trust James with my deepest fears and biggest dreams,” said Burch.  “We support each other in every possible way and I know I am strengthened and hopeful through our marriage,” she said.

After sharing details of her family, church, and personal life, Burch revealed that in reality her spouse’s name is Jane.  Many audience members looked around in shock. Burch continued to claim that this debate is one of religious freedom. “We don’t have a religious litmus test in order to get married,” she said, claiming that marriage is not a religious institution to many, such as atheists and agnostics. Stating same-sex marriage goes against the religious tradition of marriage is unfounded since marriage is a civil issue.

SMU junior Udoka Omenukor poses a question to Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute. (PHOTO BY COLIN HOGAN / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

SMU junior Udoka Omenukor poses a question to Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute. (PHOTO BY COLIN HOGAN / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

Sasser countered this claim, supporting the tradition of marriage between one man and one woman only.

“Marriage exists not because it is ordained in a supreme being but because it is what has been the universal binding force that all societies have been built around,” said Sasser. “In all of these societies, marriage has almost always been between one man and one woman.”

Burch focused on the lack of legal rights for homosexual couples such as hospital visitation, inability to file taxes together resulting in the payment of much more money as a couple, and the difficulty of having, adopting, or fostering children. “We are an evolved culture,” said Burch, citing the lack of support initially for interracial marriage and women’s rights.  “But this does not mean we cannot change, grow, and learn.” For Burch, anything short of marriage is claiming homosexual relationships are less meaningful.

Sasser focused on studies stating children do better in families with a mom and a dad, the tradition of homosexual activity not being recognized as accepted activity, and the idea that the government does not need to recognize and support the institution of same-sex marriage when it goes against tradition, religion, and studies stating homosexuals are less healthy people as a whole.

“People should be allowed to live their life in the way they decide to do so without needing state recognition,” said Sasser.

The crowd more vocally supported Burch’s points by the occasional cheer or shouting of “amen” and even with a small uproar of the crowd when Sasser said something contradictory. Even for some not vocally supporting Burch, her points were convincing.

“I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t want my gay friends to be deprived of any rights I had just because their lifestyle was different than mine,” said freshman Sarah Pearson who grew up in a conservative household, but was moved by Burch’s emotion and sincerity in the debate.

Freshman Anthony Palmer thought Sasser’s points were more reasonable. “The negative developed a good case centered on social sciences and dived in a little bit into the slippery slope argument by asking, ‘Well, if we allow this, why not this as well?’” he said.

For freshman Christy Parrott, both debaters did not make entirely clear arguments.  “I would say while both sides had legitimate reasoning for their arguments, it seemed as though some arguments and statements were too general and muddled the main arguments,” she said.

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