While some state voters may still be unsure whether to uphold same-sex marriage on next month’s ballot, the University Senate threw its support behind the measure at its meeting yesterday, illustrating the university’s support.
Several senators argued taking a political stance does not fall within the body’s responsibilities — and were unsure if the senate should vote on issues that extend beyond the campus or University System of Maryland — but others said same-sex marriage is a matter of equality, not politics. The resolution passed with 63 votes, with eight senators voting against it and three abstaining.
Although there was an amendment to take out a provision urging voters to support marriage equality — Question 6 on the state referendum — it was ultimately shut down. Faculty senator Marilee Lindemann, who proposed supporting the measure, said she was glad senators were willing to discuss and debate but felt the amendment would have weakened the proposal.
“I can understand the impulse to be cautious,” Lindemann said after the meeting.
The Student Government Association voted in favor of a resolution that would support upholding marriage equality in September, and SGA President Samantha Zwerling said yesterday because most college students are over 18 and are therefore legally able to marry without parental consent, it is an issue that directly affects them. Supporting the act would also help the university attract “the best and brightest faculty,” Zwerling added.
Faculty senator Gay Gullickson said the senate has passed resolutions in the past asking the Board of Regents to extend same-sex benefits, so the body has already made its position on the issue known.
And while faculty senator Chris Davis said he was disappointed it took the senate so long to formally show its support for marriage equality, he proposed eliminating the clause that would encourage voters. This would help the senate avoid making a political statement, he said.
But Lindemann pointed to a recent email from university President Wallace Loh in which he strongly supported the state DREAM Act — which would allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition if they meet a set of requirements — and urged others to do the same. The senate supporting marriage equality would ideally serve a similar purpose, she said.
“I don’t see this [resolution] as risky,” Lindemann said. “I would be disappointed to see it watered down.”
Many senators said the issue is one of compassion and equality, which distinguishes it from other political statements, such as supporting a candidate for president.
“We are just innately tolerant and hardworking and compassionate and willing to make powerful statements in everything we do,” said faculty senator and field hockey coach Missy Meharg.
Additionally, undergraduate senator Alex Miletich said taking out the voter clause would weaken the resolution’s impact as well as its meaning, because including it could help inform students about the issue’s relevance in the upcoming election.
“It’s really going to educate voters to what is going on right now,” he said.