April 9, 2008

Student groups plan second Pro-Choice Day

Politics, privacy and same-sex marriage will all be celebrated on April 10 in the University Center at Northern Kentucky University. Common Ground, NKU’s gay-straight alliance, and NKU Students for Choice, a pro-choice advocacy organization, will be hosting a series of events as part of their Second Annual Pro-Choice Day.

The goal is to have a same-sex marriage ceremony occur on campus, according to Jacob Barrett of the Kentucky Equality Federation, a state-wide advocacy group for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The KEF is working with Common Ground to host the event. Presently, Barrett said they do not have a minister willing to officiate the ceremony due to schedule conflicts.

The same-sex marriage ceremony has been postponed twice, once due to weather, and again when the NKU employee and Universal Life Church minister was who was to officiate the wedding, Sam Lapin, backed out of the ceremony after concerns arose from University administrators and his supervisors. Those administrators and supervisors felt the marriage ceremony might elicit controversy and impact Senate Bill 112, which would restrict universities from extending benefits to domestic partners of gay employees. The KEF was not involved in those attempts.

Lapin has not been asked to officiate the ceremony this time around, however, he said he hopes the event is “a great success.”

The event is being advertised as “an official Celebration of Marriage” through flyers posted around campus.

In a previous interview with the Kentucky Enquirer, Sara Sidebottom, vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, said “I didn’t judge the ceremony, I judged the word ‘official,’” referencing previous advertisements that prompted her office to raise concerns about the ceremony. Sidebottom was unavailable for comment prior to press time, and Jay Manire, associate legal counsel, refused to comment.

It is illegal for a person qualified to perform marraiges to legally marry same-sex couples. The use of the word “official” makes it seem like the marriage would be legally recognized. However, Kentucky does not recognize such marriages.

Members of Common Ground did not respond to The Northerner’s requests for information.

The same-sex marriage celebration will wrap up a full day of events. It is scheduled to take place at 4:00 p.m. in the University Center lobby.

At 2:30, Kentucky State Senator Ernesto Scorsone (D-Fayette), an attorney who successfully had Kentucky’s anti-sodomy statutes overturned and a supporter of gay rights issues, will address NKU students in the UC Ballroom.

“I’m going to talk about some of the legal and political issues involving the gay community,” Scorsone said. He said part of his speech would likely include comments on his legal battle to legalize sodomy in the Commonwealth.

“Senator Scorsone is an amazing and effective member of the Senate, and as soon as we were planning on focusing this day on personal empowerment in politics, he was the natural first choice,” said Erin Sandy, vice president for NKU Students for Choice.

Scorsone will be joined by Tara Bonistall, of Planned Parenthood, who will address legal issues relating to women’s rights in Ohio and Kentucky

From 10:30 to 2:30 p.m., the organizations will host a Personal Power ‘ Politics fair that will feature organizations including The KEF, Staff and Faculty for Equality, Educators for Reproductive Freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reproductive Freedom Project, Women’s Crisis Center, National Organization for Women, Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus, Planned Parenthood, and Obama and Clinton campaign representatives.

Sandy also said she believes the issues of her organization are related to those of Common Ground.

“Students for Choice believes that couples, not the government, should decide if they will marry, and that this is a pro-choice, pro-freedom value, so therefore we proudly stand by and support Common Ground,” she said.

While students inside the University Center will be learning about pro-choice and gay rights issues, outside in the UC plaza will be a pro-life display comparing abortion to historic images of genocide. The display is sponsored by Northern Right to Life.

Northern Right to Life expects “pro-choicers” to protest the display, according to Katie Walker, the organization’s president. However, Sandy said that she hopes no such protest of their event will take place.

“I don’t imagine Right to Life [or any other organization] protesting against educating people about their role in the political sphere, and politics’ role in their lives,” Sandy said, adding that the NKU Students for Choice president, Alex Kindell, has invited Northern Right to Life to share information and literature about their viewpoints at the event instead of protesting.

NRTL expects “pro-choicers” to protest the display, according to Katie Walker, the organization’s president. However, Sandy said that she hopes no such protest of their event will take place.