Tuesday, February 19

Bruins toast right to same-sex marriage


Couple renews vows in public ceremony just days before Senate vote on Federal Marriage Amendment

Hundreds of people filled Bruin Plaza on Friday, spilling onto
the steps and roof of Ackerman Union, to watch Patricia
Alford-Keating, a UCLA Student Psychological Services counselor,
and her partner, Shannon Lea Keating, rededicate their lives to one
another in a public ceremony.

The event, which included the ceremony for Alford-Keating and
Keating, was put on by the UCLA Student Coalition for Marriage
Equality, and also drew support for the legalization of same-sex
marriages.

The pair first exchanged vows 22 years ago, but California does
not legally recognize their relationship as a marriage because both
partners are women.

The coalition hosted a similar event last year with two men who
already considered themselves married although the state does not
recognize their union.

Alford-Keating and Keating’s ceremony took place just days
before the Senate’s upcoming vote on the Federal Marriage
Amendment, expected to be taken on June 6 or 7.

The amendment, if passed, would change the U.S. Constitution to
specifically define marriage as a union between a man and a woman,
and would make same-sex marriages illegal throughout the U.S.,
though civil unions would still be permitted.

To become law, the amendment would need to pass with a
two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives,
and then be ratified by 38 states.

Though 19 states have already approved amendments to their state
constitutions that define marriage as a union between a man and
woman, it stands little chance of passing in the 100-member Senate,
where proponents are struggling to get even 50 votes, according to
information released by The Associated Press.

Several Republicans oppose the measure, and so far only one
Democrat ““ Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska ““ has said he
will vote for it.

President Bush reaffirmed his support of the proposed amendment
and his opposition to same-sex marriages in a June 3 radio
address.

“Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of
a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the
welfare of children and the stability of society,” Bush said.
“Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious and
natural roots without weakening this good influence on
society.”

Reverend Dusty Pruitt, who presided over Alford-Keating and
Keating’s vow renewal, scoffed at such perceptions. She
contested the idea that allowing same-sex couples to wed actually
undermines marriage.

“What threatens traditional marriage is divorce, not
Patricia and Shannon’s 22-year commitment,” Pruitt
said.

The crowd cheered and whistled as the couple exchanged rings,
“I do’s” and a kiss. Spectators were encouraged
to sign a petition in support of same-sex marriages.

“I challenge you to carry your support beyond this
ceremony,” Pruitt said.

Many of the speakers, including the couple’s grown
children, talked about Keating and Alford-Keating’s love and
devotion for one another.

Most concluded their speeches by telling the couple they dream
of the day when Keating and Alford-Keating’s marriage will be
legal.

“In reality, Shannon and Patricia are already
married,” said speaker Brian Chase, staff counsel for Lambda
Legal, an organization which advocates for homosexual, bisexual and
transgender people. “We will continue working for the day
when Shannon and Patricia’s marriage will be recognized by
the state.”

Ronni Sanlo, the director of the UCLA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender Resource Center, said the amendment would mark the
“first time discrimination is written into the
Constitution.”

“This will change if we stand together and demand marriage
equality for all,” said Sanlo, who spoke at the ceremony.

People both on stage and in the gathering said the government
should not have the right to restrict marriage to heterosexual
couples.

“There’s really no reason not to (support gay
marriage),” said fourth-year psychology student Joni Wu.
“It’s not something you need permission for.”

With reports from Bruin wire services.

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