05/08/2012 09:09 am ET | Updated Jul 08, 2012

Wake Forest Reacts To Controversial Amendment One

By Hilary Burns, Life editor

In recent weeks, college students across the state of North Carolina have vocalized their opinions regarding the controversial piece of legislation known as Amendment One. Wake Forest has been following this trend as many student organizations and individuals have spoken out both for and against the amendment.

If passed, Amendment One would define marriage in the state constitution between one man and one woman and would prohibit any other types of domestic unions, according to Ballot Pedia's website.

As an April 29 New York Times staff editorial argued, "Much will depend on turnout, especially by voters on college campuses, who will need to vote in larger-than-usual numbers to defeat this declaration of officially sanctioned discrimination."

The New York Times is one of many groups urging young voters to vote against Amendment One.

A division of Wake Forest's Student Life sent out two extensive broadcast emails to the entire student body in April with information about how and where students can register to vote. Information about shuttles to voting polls was also shared in the email.

Vice President of Student Life Ken Zick could not comment on the university's political stance but he said, "Personally, I will vote no on Proposition One. I consider it a matter of civil liberties."

"I definitely think the emails were sent out at an interesting time right before election day for Amendment One," Kahle McDonough, Gay Straight Student Alliance (GSSA) president, said.

Student groups are also speaking out. On April 3, the GSSA and Rally to Unite groups manned a table outside of the Pit advocating a two-day fast against the amendment. Volunteers also educated peers about what exactly the amendment entails and offered early voter registration to students.

"Hundreds of people were wearing pink bands to show support against the amendment, even if they were already registered to vote in other states," McDonough said. "It is absolutely imperative that college students vote."

In addition to these movements against Amendment One, Tré Easton, Student Government President, said that SG attempted to put forth a bill opposing the Marriage Act but the bill was dropped due to procedural complications.

Conservative students reacted negatively to this proposed bill, and multiple letters were sent to SG arguing that the organization could not endorse a position on a political issue like Amendment One.

Easton responded to these letters by saying Amendment One is not a political issue but rather a human rights issue.

An author of one of these letters, senior Russell Lyons, said that he has a problem with "people forcing opinions."

Lyons' letter to fellow College Republicans states, "Delving into polarizing political issues is a dangerous step for an organization of such representative nature."

"Inherently Amendment One codifies discrimination that would impact students on this campus," Easton said. Easton is disturbed by the wording of Amendment One and argued that the bill would make North Carolina an unappealing destination for college students.

"If this bill had been in effect when I was applying to college, I would not have put this school on my list," Easton said.

The once celebratory ceremony of marriage has been transformed into a topic of controversy and debate in the state of North Carolina, and Wake Forest students are feeling the impact. As the editorial staff of The New York Times put it on April 29, Amendment One signifies "bigotry on the ballot."

For many students, the irony of the amendment lies in that gay marriage is already illegal in North Carolina.

"Not only is this bill discriminatory but it is redundant," Easton said. McDonough said that whether the amendment passes or not, it does not change anything for gay rights, "it will just take away rights for a lot of people."

Mary Gerardy, Dean of Campus Life, said that the university has come such a long way in the 27 years she has been here in terms of accepting diversity.

"When I came to Wake Forest it was a difficult place to come out [as gay], and it was very sad that people couldn't be who they really are," Gerardy said. "The past two years have been incredible to watch with the acceptance of the LGBTQ center."

Gerardy said that this acceptance is in large part because students today have grown up in such a diverse world. Gerardy hopes all students will vote in this election, and she encourages political activism on campus.

"This is our issue -- this is going to pervade our generation's time," Easton said.

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