Harrison James Neuert (United States, AC 10-12)
Two years ago, the state of Vermont (in the US) passed the Vermont Marriage Equality Act. The act allowed same sex couples to marry and be entitled to the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. As a Vermonter, I was excited about how this would influence my state. We had made an important leap towards equality, I was proud that my tiny little home could be added to the small (but growing) list of places where homosexual couples were entitled to the same legal rights as their heterosexual equals.
Since coming to Atlantic College, I’ve had some interesting conversations about gay marriage. One of my favorite weekly activities here is called Newsflash. It is a forum where students talk about whatever is happening in our countries. It allows us to gain news and insight from all around the world, filtered through someone who really understands the topic. A few weeks ago we talked about gay marriage in the US, and I was fascinated to hear what others had to say. Some people were unconditionally in favor of gay marriage, others felt more uncomfortable with the idea. Ultimately, I think there are many ideas of what marriage means, not only at AC, but around the world. For some, it is a sacred religious tradition, something that shouldn’t be changed and must be respected. For others, it is purely a legal term, a status that gives people certain rights and responsibilities. There are simply too many concepts of what it means to be married for everyone to see eye to eye on this issue. I’m not sure that worldwide, or even nationwide, marriage equality is possible in the near future. Instead, we need to start treating each other with the basic dignity and humanity that everyone deserves, regardless of sexuality. There have been several recent suicides in the US, all linked to homophobic bullying incidents. This is obviously frightening. Homophobic bullying and hate speech simply must stop, the consequences are too dire.
I’ve loved being at AC these past few months because I’ve learnt the power of civilized debate. I feel privileged to live in a place where people have the ability to speak their minds on sensitive topics, and feel (most of the time) like they are being heard. Obviously, it isn’t perfect; we may never come to any conclusions about these issues. However, talking to each other in a way that allows everyone to have a voice is surely the first step, and clearly a step worth taking.
-United World Colleges Student Magazine-