Today the same-sex marriage debate landed at Weber State, filling Elizabeth Hall room 229’s stadium seating almost to capacity.
Hosted by the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service, the debate invited University of Utah law professor Clifford J. Rosky to debate Sutherland Institute director of the Center for Family and Society William Duncan.
As Rosky was late for the debate, WSU foreign language professor Tom Matthews stood in for him.
Moderated by Standard-Examiner opinion editor Doug Gibson, Rosky and Matthews stood in favor of same-sex marriage while Duncan argued against legalizing the practice.
Here are the top questions raised during the debate, held between 1:45 and 2:45 p.m.
- Gibson asked Duncan: Why shouldn’t the Supreme Court affirm same-sex marriage in the same way they affirm heterosexual marriages?
Duncan said there’s no constitutional justification for that decision. There’s nothing in the Constitution that requires that kind of equality.
Matthews responded that there should be a legal framework to protect same-sex couples, namely marriage. Marriage isn’t a constitutional issue, but equal protection is.
- Gibson asked Duncan: Is it fair to say the societal attitudes on same-sex marriage have evolved, and why shouldn’t the Supreme Court respect that evolution of opinion?
Duncan said the Supreme Court should respect public opinion and leave the question to the states, allowing states to enact legislation on same-sex marriage themselves.
Matthews responded with disagreement. He said the Supreme Court should not base their decisions on public opinion, but base their rulings on their interpretation of the law. In this case they should base their ruling on the 14th Amendment.
- Gibson asked Matthews: Will ending the tradition of marriage between a man and a woman open the door for other unions such as polygamy?
Matthews said that argument was a “scare tactic.” Polygamy, he said, is a different kind of construct distinct from marriage, though it could be legalized.
Duncan responded that polygamy is unlikely to be legalized any time soon. He said the real question is whether the Constitution can allow the courts to define marriage.
- A student asked Matthews: Why do you feel the struggle is the same today as with past civil rights movements?
Matthews said different civil rights movements, including the same-sex marriage debate, are both related and vastly different. He does see parallels between past movements and the current debate.
- Student asked Duncan: What are the fundamental differences between men and women other than procreation, and are these differences inherent?
Duncan said the biological differences are the key to understanding the difference between men and women. He said there is no need to show any other difference between men and women other than in a biological respect, and the history of marriage is rooted in those differences.
Matthews responded as an aside that he finds it humorous when people say marriage has been the same forever. He referenced Utah’s history with polygamy as an example.
- A student asked the panel: If reproduction is such a big issue, why not exclude people who cannot reproduce from marriage?
Duncan said our society has drawn the line at inquiring into this kind of issue when deciding who can marry. He reiterated that only a man and a woman can legally marry since they have a reasonable expectation of producing children.
Rosky said it’s important to understand privacy rights and added the inquiry into whether someone is male or female can itself be a privacy issue.
- A student asked Duncan: Why do you believe the way you believe?
Duncan said society recognizes marriage between a man and a woman for the purposes of reproduction. He doesn’t see all rights as being explicitly in the Constitution, and changing the definition of marriage is a mistake that would harm children.