Clarion, Pa.- Legalization of same-sex marriage for the state of Pennsylvania was a day that brought many to tears. For some, it wasn’t because they identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, but because it was the day that the United States government decided to recognize those who do identify themselves as LGBT as equals.
On May 20, Federal Judge John E. Johns III overturned the ban, making Pennsylvania the 19th state to legalize gay marriage This verdict has had a profound effect on many CU students and staff, in more ways than one. Clarion University is an equal opportunity school, one that accepts and advertises diversity and acceptance of all despite their religion, race, gender or sexuality.
The legalization of same-sex marriage had an impact on Clarion University’s Allies, an activist group that works to promote social equity and awareness of LGBT concerns on campus. University President Dr. Karen Whitney was also personally effected by the legalization, allowing her to marry her life partner Dr. Peggy Apple, assistant professor in the Education Department on Aug. 19 in Montgomery County. “It was a movement, a signal from the states and courts to any who are lesbian or gay that ‘we respect you, appreciate you and you are a part of our community,’” said Whitney.
What many may not understand is the legal securities and personal gratitude that comes with the legalization of same-sex marriage. Whitney added, “I have loved Peggy for a long time, over 20 years actually, and no law was going to stop me from ever loving her.” “But the reason, I believe, that marriage equality was always fought for is because we want respect from our government and our society; acknowledgment that they accept our choices and who we are as an individual,” said she.
She continued, “I wanted the protections of being married that everyone else receives. To the state, I wanted to be seen as a couple, a family unit, not as two individuals. I am proud to be an American and was hurt when they would not recognize my relationship with the love of my life.” Whitney discussed how she believes that every individual is authentic and how people should be judged by character and not by stereotypes. “One thing that I love was that my relationship was respected by the community and university,” said Whitney. “What I hope now is that when students enter our campus and identify themselves as LGBT, that they feel safe and supported here. I hope that they feel respected and know that they have as many equal rights as the next person beside them.”
Clarion University Allies president Katie Ellinger, was “so freaking happy when I heard the news.” Ellinger believes that, “Clarion has always been open and accepting of me, my choice and of the Allies organization. Back at home I have not come out to many people. Being here feels more like a home to me because people are more welcoming of who I am and who I decide to be with.”
Ellinger’s partner and vice president of Clarion Allies, Morgan Woodin said she also feels that at home, there was never really a support group like the one Clarion has. “I was brought to tears when I was told about the new law. For Allies, there has definitely been an increase in support and interest,” said Woodin. She continued, “Over the decades this movement has always kept improving. Our generation had trouble with recognizing LGBT individuals. I think the next generation of students will have a better understanding and it will be easier for them to feel okay about being lesbian or gay, be able to accept it, and feel accepted.”
Woodin, like Whitney also recognizes and embraces the rights that her and her partner would be granted if married, including the medical, financial and personal rights and equalities. Both women agree that with the passing of the law, more people will feel comfortable to “come out” and express freely his or her sexuality.
Stephanie Kulikowski, a member of Allies, remarked how, “I have several friends who are gay and I just want them to know that I support what they do. It is easier for other people to accept them too, now that the state government is backing up their freedom to marry.” Kulikowski said how some of her friends are now more willing to express their sexuality friendly, such as Clarion. “I recently had two friends married right after the law was passed,” added Kulikowski. “I was so thrilled that they were able to marry, that they got the respect and happiness that they deserve.”
President Whitney said, “although the new legislation is about gaining LGBT’s the same rights and equalities as other couples, it is also about love. I could not live without my partner. I love her with everything I have.” She then added per Clarion Allies motto: “whether it is man and man, woman and man, or woman and woman, ‘Love is Love.’”