A decent proposal

Politics often make little sense to me.
Case in point: the 2008 election, though a monumental win for one of the most progressive presidents in the history of the country, also ushered in one of the most reactionary propositions ever suggested.

Of course, I’m talking about Proposition Eight, which amended the California state constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman only. It effectively eliminated what had become a civil right for gay Californians, and seemed to be an uncharacteristic election result given the overwhelming majority gained by the Democratic Party.

The passing of Proposition Eight has proven to be yet another moment in our country’s history where fear, narrow-mindedness, and overall ignorance has prevailed. The refusal of many Americans to accept or even begin to understand gays is a notion that’s hard to swallow.

But the election of Barack Obama seems to have ignited some hope among both gay and straight Americans for a renewed sense of understanding and openness among citizens of all sexualities over the next four years.

Case in point: more than 100 former military leaders came forward this past week with a statement urging for the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy enacted under President Clinton in 1993.

The policy stated that gay Americans could join the military, so long as they keep their sexuality secret. Though a step in the right direction, the rule served as a mere band-aid on the larger problem of segregating homosexuals from military service.

Retired Admiral Charles Larson, a former Naval Academy superintendent, is leading the petition and, according to an article from CNN, stated that the policy created “a lot of witch hunts” and “a lot of people were turned out on that basis.”

The article goes on to note that the former military members are hoping that President-Elect Obama will repeal the policy and enforce even more tolerant legislation, adopting an open sexuality policy with the military like most of the United States’ allies, including England and Israel. It’s a suggestion that Obama has spoken about favorably in the past, so the likelihood of such reform taking shape seems a definite possibility.

But while the hope for expanding the rights of gay Americans is certainly more likely with our new President-Elect, the results of Proposition Eight reminds us that a bigger problem may remain: creating an open environment for those of all sexualities in the United States.

Perhaps the best way to address the issue of openness and understanding is to start locally. For us, that starts right here at St. John’s.

To my surprise, I realized recently that the University has no undergraduate groups on campus advocating rights of gay Americans.

But that’s not to say the creation of one has never been debated. According to Jodi Cox, associate director of Campus Activities, she has heard rumors of creating one from some students during her nine years here with the University.

“There hasn’t been a history [of a gay-straight alliance] on campus as long as I’ve been an administrator,” she told me. “People have talked about it, but there has never been a uniform effort to form one.”

From what I’ve seen, Cox is undeniably right. I’ve heard similar rumors from students about the formation of such an organization throughout my four years here. So, then, why has a gay-straight alliance not been created yet?

Students may be apprehensive about creating such a group at a Catholic University.

Though, as seen through other schools nationwide, this apprehension is unfounded; various Catholic schools throughout the country have officially-recognized gay-straight alliances, including Georgetown, Marquette, Boston College, Villanova, and Seton Hall.

In the case of Notre Dame, the school created a special “Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students,” which advises administrators on major campus issues. It may not be an official student-run group, but it is still a sign that the university, though Catholic, is still willing to allow representation for students of differing sexualities.

When push comes to shove, many major Catholic Universities have erred on the side of understanding and openness, not stifling the creation of gay-straight alliances or other such organizations on campus.

As seen through the results of Proposition Eight, there is still work that needs to be done. Now, more than ever, is a time when interested students at St. John’s should not hesitate to form a progressive organization on campus that promotes tolerance.

And though certainly a political issue, the acceptance of gay Americans ultimately starts with individuals, and local groups can spread the awareness necessary to eliminate the narrow-mindedness and ignorance that still persists throughout much of the country.

Why should St. John’s be one of the few major Catholic universities to not have such an organization for undergraduates on campus?

Quite frankly, it’s a question that shouldn’t have to be posed.