Marriage forum creates tension in Davis Center

The Vermont Marriage Advisory Council (VMAC) met on Saturday in the Silver Maple Ballroom to host a forum to address the question: Does Traditional Marriage Matter? According to Dr. Patrick Fagan, clinical psychologist and president of the Family Research Council in Washington D.C., it does matter. Furthermore, he said, the future of our children is at stake. Fagan and Monte Stewart, president of the Marriage Law Foundation, compiled a detailed slideshow of facts that states the future of children’s rights depends upon which method of institutionalized marriage is chosen. They concluded that traditional marriage is favorable over same-sex marriage. The UVM Community met the VMAC with strong opposition. Prior to the forum, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel issued an empathetic email to the UVM Community, urging the people to respect the VMAC and its opposition to same-sex marriage, while maintaining support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Ally (LGBTQA) community. In his email, Fogel refused to position UVM against rights to freedom of speech, no matter how controversial the topic is.Using statistical evidence, Fagan and Stewart made it very clear that an increased divorce rate is a major contributor to the increased poverty rate in the United States. Therefore, as described by Fagan and Stewart, marriage is a vital social institution because it coincides with education, religion, politics, and economics. The VMAC posed three variations of the institution of marriage that they believe the Vermont citizens will be obligated to choose from in the near future. The following options are 1) traditional marriage; 2) marriage between any two individuals regardless of gender; and, 3) no established marital institution whatsoever. However VMAC fears that not having an established marital institution would be detrimental to society. The two debating opponents of Fagan and Stewart, also members of VMAC, were Rutland family attorney Judy Barone and Middlebury attorney Anthony Duprey. Though somewhat dismayed by the audience’s personal agendas, Barone strongly urged the community to look beyond the obvious moral question of right and wrong, “and realize that there is a choice that must be made.” The debate emphasized child’s rights, rather than focusing completely on the institution of same-sex marriage. “There was a factual rationale that was lacking though; the VMAC can’t just use correlations to disqualify same-sex marriage,” Vincent-Bryan, Vice President of SGA said. Advocates of same-sex marriage argued that the institution of marriage is beneficial regardless of gender. They repeatedly questioned the data that Fagan and Stewart relied upon in an effort to weaken VMAC’s predicted outcome of same-sex marriage. Although the debate over child’s rights and institutionalized marriage is far from over, Saturday’s forum gave both advocates and antagonists of same-sex marriage a chance to openly discuss a sensitive issue while searching for a solution.