Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. The court is expected to make a ruling on same-sex marriage within the next year. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. The court is expected to make a ruling on same-sex marriage within the next year. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A debate that has raged across the country for more than a decade will come to Weber State this Thursday.

As part of Constitution week, WSU will host a debate on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

Moderated by Standard-Examiner opinion editor Doug Gibson, the debate will feature William Duncan, director of the Center for Family and Society at the Sutherland Institute squaring off against Clifford J. Rosky, professor of law at the University of Utah.

Rosky, who is the chair of Equality Utah, an organization dedicated to securing equal rights for LGBT individuals, believes the term “gay marriage” isn’t accurate.

“Gay Americans want the freedom to marry like everybody else,” Rosky said. “There are not two kinds of marriage.”

Duncan disagrees. He sees marriage as child-centered and necessarily between a man and a woman.

“(Marriage) has served in virtually all human societies to encourage men and women who may create a child to take responsibility for that child and for one another,” Duncan wrote in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in 2009.

Both will get the chance to share their views on marriage and equality in the light of constitutional law Thursday in Elizabeth Hall room 229 from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m.

This debate comes in the context of a large number of judges across the nation ruling same sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Their rationale for this comes from the fourteenth amendment to the constitution.

Though the fourteenth amendment does not mention marriage, it does extend citizens the right to “equal protection of the laws,” which some argue includes the right to same-sex marriage.

Though many judges accept this rationale, one Louisiana judge recently ruled in favor of the state’s same sex marriage ban, upholding the state’s right to define marriage as it saw fit.

“There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage,” said the court in a statement earlier this month.

Rosky, on the other hand, believes tradition is not the best guide for determining what is and is not constitutional.

“The fact that something was traditionally the case doesn’t mean it’s constitutional to deny someone the right to it,” he said, comparing this issue to interracial marriage, a practice only made fully legal in the United States in 1967.

The Sutherland Institute, along with many others, says the marriage between a man and a woman is in the best interest of the community to uphold.

“Society benefits when humans fulfill the measure of their creation in forming and maintaining natural families,” the institute said on their website. “Our populations are replenished, the quality of rising generations is ensured and aging generations are cared for.”

The debate format will include opening statements from both Duncan and Rosky, and then questions posed by both the moderator Gibson and the audience.

Gibson wants people attending the debate to understand the complexities of this issue.

“This is a very emotional issue,” Gibson said. “Sometimes the opposing side can take a rather dismissive attitude of the other side.”

Gibson doesn’t think the debate will sway the audience one way or another, since most people in the audience have probably already taken sides.

“I do hope they will have a greater understanding of the issues,” Gibson said. “And more importantly, the arguments perhaps of the other side as much as their own side of the debate.”

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