State of the union: SBU divided over marriage equality

A month after New York passed the Marriage Equality Act, college students were still divided in their response to a matter that seems far into their futures.

“Students are more concerned about basic equalities than marriage—that doesn’t really affect a lot of [college-age] people,” said Chris Tanaka, a special project coordinator at the Center for Prevention and Outreach at Stony Brook University.

Rosalie Sacher and Nikki Wertheim

Rosalie Sacher and Nikki Wertheim support Marriage Equality law/ Photo by Christine Angell

Tanaka said the Center, a resource for students, is focused on providing education and outreach that deal with alcohol and drug abuse, depression, suicide prevention and gender issues. Within the population that Tanaka works with, students who identify as transgender and gender nonconforming are having the most concerns about accessing basic rights.

On June 24 lawmakers passed the act, 33-29, and 30 days later, same-sex couples around the state were lining up to be among the first in New York to be legally married. The law passed amid controversy, with anti-gay rallies and gay-pride events increasing in volume.

“I really think that it [the law’s passage] sends a strong message to the country. It’s time to make this change,” said Elisa Waters, a Long Island educator and founder of the website,, an online resource for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Waters said, “I’m proud of New York, but I’m disappointed in Long Island senators because they voted against [the marriage bill]. Long Island should realize that the senators aren’t listening to the people.”

All nine senators from Long Island voted against the bill.

Students on campus at Stony Brook University voiced a range of opinions.

“Marriage is a sacred act that should be only between a man and a woman,” said Pete Molloy, who was walking near the Student Union.

Michael Reid, a student working at a campus job, said his religious beliefs go against same sex-marriage.

Lesbian couple Rosalie Sacher and Nikki Wertheim, strolled the grounds hand-in-hand. “It might be legal [in New York], but it may not always be accepted everywhere,” Sacher said.

Time will tell if voters nationwide embrace marriage equality, said Khushba Khtchaudhary, who was walking with her boyfriend near the Melville Library. “[It] may not be quickly passed in other states because of different demographics, values and different groups.”