Colleges Discuss Prop 8 – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Colleges Discuss Prop 8

As the nation awaits the potentially monumental results of a Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8, the HWS chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy hosted a Proposition 8 and LGBT Policy Issues Policy Panel.

“We received the funding to do one policy panel this semester,” says Amanda Ward ‘11, executive board member of Americans for Informed Democracy and Civic Leader for Political Activism.  “We had to think about what is important in this country right now.  More importantly, we had to ask ourselves: What is being discussed here on campus?”

Proposition 8, also known as the California Marriage Protection Act, is a controversial constitutional amendment passed in 2008 that states that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in California.  This past summer, the constitutionality of Prop 8 was challenged in the U. S. District Court, and was eventually ruled to violate Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses – making it unconstitutional.  However, in recent weeks, the case has reached the Supreme Court in an appeal of this ruling.

Associate Professor of Political Science DeWayne Lucas, Professor of Religious Studies Susan Henking, and Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Todd White joined this semester’s panel.  Each professor presented for 10 minutes on different approaches to viewing Prop 8 and LGBT issues, creating a dialogue for the more than 30 students in attendance.

“We thought having professors from different departments would create a nice variety of perspectives,” remarks Ward.  “Each presentation really encouraged discussion.  Some professors took controversial stances, and students reacted very strongly.”

Topics discussed included the complications of the law itself, and potential rulings in the Supreme Court, in addition to discussing what should be considered the most important focus for the LGBT movement.  While some thought that marriage rights should take priority, others argued that there should be a greater push for better hate crime laws.

“We wanted the momentum of the candlelight vigil to keep going,” says Ward, referring to the October vigil held in honor of Tyler Clementi and recent LGBT suicides.  “There was concern that students might not know a lot about the legislature and the details of Proposition 8.  We wanted to help equip students with the means to change policy; we want students to take action.”