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Campus discusses state’s proposed marriage amendment

Posted on 12.11.2013

In response to the proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution to prevent gay marriage, the University of Indianapolis held a University Series community conversation on the issue.


(From left) Assistant Professor of Political Science Maryam Stevenson, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher and Michael Cartwright, dean of ecumenical and interfaith programs and associate professor of philosophy and religion, field a question from the audience at the conversation about HJR 6 on Dec. 4.

The discussion was held on Dec. 4 with about 200 students, faculty and staff. Audience members could ask questions of two panelists—Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher and Assistant Professor of Political Science Maryam Stevenson. The discussion was moderated by Dean of Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs Michael Cartwright.
The issue was House Joint Resolution 6, which proposes an amendment to Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution. A synopsis of the resolution, which was handed out at the discussion, states “that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.”
Although many universities in Indiana have come out with official statements about the resolution, UIndy has not made a formal statement on this matter.
President Robert Manuel initiated the discussion by saying that he is not comfortable speaking for the entire university without first giving people a chance to voice their opinions, because that is not his leadership style. Instead Manuel said he wanted to open up the issue to the university community to discuss and think about critically.
Cartwright laid out some ground rules and explained what the university wanted the audience to get from this discussion and how he would help facilitate.
“My role on this occasion was simply to keep the conversation moving and to ensure that everybody could respect the conversation,” Cartwright said. “I did begin the event by encouraging everyone not to reenact the culture wars, and for everyone to take into account both a need for humility and a need to avoid arrogance.”
During the conversation, questions ranged from legal and procedural matters to how a person’s gender is defined. Cartwright believes the discussion went well and said that some of the questions surprised him, in a good way.
“I was intrigued by the first question that was asked by a student, a child of two lesbian parents,” he said. “She was asking about the fact that she cannot have both of them [parents] listed for financial aid purposes. … And I did not anticipate that kind of question would come up but was pleased that a student who has been affected by this legal situation could ask a question like that.”
Cartwright believes that these types of discussions improve and allow UIndy to serve its real purpose as a university.
“I hope it [the discussion] is a good reminder that this is what universities are for. Universities are for making information available, for educating and for enabling people to articulate their best thoughts,” Cartwright said. “… I hoped it would be a confidence booster. This is not something that we should be afraid of, but in fact it’s the kind of thing that we do when we’re doing what we do best.”
According to Cartwright, the next discussion will take place early next semester. The panel will consist of two UIndy faculty members from religion and philosophy, a retired rabbi, a United Methodist clergyman and a president of a Christian seminary, because this discussion will focus on the religious and social aspects of the issue.


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