May 26, 2019

Gay marriage spurs debate among voters

The question of whether homosexual couples should be allowed to legally marry has drawn protesters and supporters to the streets near Fresno State in the past few weeks.

Supporters of Proposition 8 wave posters in the air on the corner of Herndon and Cedar and just down the road on Maple, a similarly resounding opposition is raised by demonstrators.

But on Nov. 4, the right of homosexual couples to marry in California will be in the hands of voters. Prop. 8 would add a new amendment to the California Constitution stating “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” according to California General Election Official Voter Information Guide. This amendment would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Many students would be affected by the outcome of Prop. 8 including Tom Hayhurst who married his partner, Dan Waterhouse, a Fresno State graduate, on Oct. 29. They met about five years ago, in the spring of 2003.

Waterhouse and Hayhurst are hopeful the proposition will not pass.

“We’d love to see it lose,” Waterhouse said. The two had a very simple civil ceremony but they plan to follow it up celebrating with family and friends in the future.

When it comes to the proposition, Hayhurst and Waterhouse feel the heart of the matter is that their civil rights are being challenged.

“A fundamental right cannot be made unconstitutional,” said Hayhurst, “and marrying someone of your own choice is a fundamental right.”

Originally they had planned to marry after the first of the year, but Prop. 8 changed that. In order to allow their union to be legally recognized, regardless of the election’s outcome, the two had to move up the marriage date. According to Waterhouse, “Everyone married before midnight Nov. 4 should remain so, regardless of the vote.”

“The word marriage is basically just a word, but it expresses the commitment and is a civil right I’m entitled to,” Hayhurst said.

That commitment is something both are dedicated to; they have engaged in many rallies against the proposition and have put many hours into the cause.

Joining them at many of these rallies are Dakota Draconi and her wife, Corky Draconi. Dakota is the Vice President of United Student Pride, the LGBT club on the Fresno State Campus.

The two women, like Hayhurst and Waterhouse, have been exceedingly dedicated to the “No on Proposition 8” cause. They were married on Aug. 30, and were thrilled to have the same legal rights as married straight couples.

Many supporters of Prop. 8 claim homosexual couples share the same rights as straight couples under domestic partnership laws, only without the legal designation of “marriage.” According to the experiences of both couples, restrictions under these laws are many, and those differences are at the front lines of their argument.

Dakota shared a repetitive fear she has every time her spouse walks out the door.

“For years it wasn’t just that I was afraid she would get into an accident. It was more than that. I was afraid that she would get into an accident, and I wouldn’t be allowed to be with her in the hospital.”

Under domestic partnership laws, unmarried domestic partners do not share the legal rights of visitation and medical decisions as legally married couples. They also do not share the legal standing of married couples in inheritance cases.

Katie Bishop is a married college student at Fresno State who supports Prop. 8. Bishop is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and bases her support on her religion.

“I support Prop. 8 mainly for religious reasons,” Bishop said. “Marriage has been ordained by God to be between a man and a woman. Any other definition would not fulfill the purpose of family life. I believe that children need a mother and a father. Gender is an essential role and characteristic that was given to us to provide for our children and our communities. Both men and women have something unique to give to children and this is taken away when the child is raised by a same-sex couple.”

But Bishop was certain to point out she had no problem with homosexuals as individuals, although she supported Prop. 8.

“I am not homophobic and I have nothing but positive feelings for those who are involved in a same-sex relationship,” Bishop said. “I do not agree with their lifestyle choices, but I recognize that it is their choice and every person should be allowed to live the way they so choose.”

Preservation of traditional marriage was a major reason Bishop supports Prop. 8. However, Dakota saw this a different way.

“The threat to traditional marriage is divorce, and interpersonal violence,” she said.

The Draconis, along with Waterhouse and Hayhurst, both felt religion was not the heart of the issue. Dakota asked if her friend, who was Buddhist, should not be allowed to get married for religious reasons.

She continued to address another issue often raised about the purpose of marriage; procreation.

“If marriage’s purpose is to create children, then should old people not be allowed to get married? What about infertile couples? Should they not be allowed to get married?” Dakota asked.

Prop. 8 will go before California voters on Tuesday, and neither side is certain which way it will go.

“It is a dead heat, and every vote counts,” Hayhurst said.

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