Last edited: February 27, 2005

BYU Professor: Future of Gay Marriage Should Be Up to the People

Dr. Richard Wilkins addressed legal implications of recent court cases to mixed audience reaction Tuesday night

The Daily Barometer, February 23, 2005

By Eric Dodson, staff writer, 737-2232

Dr. Richard G. Wilkins, professor of law at Brigham Young University,, spoke Tuesday evening on the value of constitutional marriage.In Sunday’s episode of “The Simpsons,” Marge Simpson came to terms with her sister’s gay marriage. Marge came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter if people fit the traditional marriage criteria, as long as they cared for each other.

According to Brigham Young University law professor Richard Wilkins, “Marge may be right, considering the current legal rules.”

In his lecture Tuesday night in the MU Ballroom, Wilkins addressed the question of who should define those rules in the midst of ongoing debates and court cases.

Wilkins is the director of the World Family Policy center in Provo, Utah and has commented on the legal status of traditional families throughout the world.

The event was sponsored by the Latter Day Saints Student Association and OSU Convocations and Lectures.

The lecture was intended to “start a healthy dialogue” according to Heather Benét, President of the LDSSA and a senior in English.

“It’s not about whether gay marriage is good or bad but how it should be decided—through courts or by the people,” she said.

In his lecture, Wilkins stressed the problems of deciding the definition of marriage in court, drawing from his knowledge of constitutional law.

“The framers of the constitution did not anticipate a country ruled by judges,” he said. Speaking about the specific issue of gay marriage, he asked, “Is it wise to allow the votes of five fallible human beings to decide?”

Wilkins analyzed the constitutional interpretation that led up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in June 2003. In that ruling, the court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy laws.

Wilkins did not disagree with the outcome of the decision but the ruling’s use of the constitution. In the ruling, Justice Kennedy found that the moral basis of the sodomy legislation conflicted with his interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

Wilkins disagreed, stating government regulations, by definition, require a moral stance. He then spoke on the moral basis of “traditional marriage” throughout history.

“An increasing amount of Americans understand marriage is much more than just being in love,” he said. Wilkins stated he is in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Some of Wilkins’ remarks stirred up a few audience members, including one man who shouted “Bullshit!” and argued that Wilkins’ definition of marriage was arbitrary. Another audience member held up a sign that read “Equal-Status/Full Humanity” for the majority of the lecture.

Christian Matheis, OSU LGBT program adviser, was glad that the LDSSA was working to create discussion on campus.

“Having someone like Wilkins here is important because it’s a chance for dialogue—assuming there’s no hate speech,” Matheis said. However, Matheis expressed concern that LDSSA did not contact any student groups representing other viewpoints. Those viewpoints are crucial to the future of the gay marriage debate.

“Once you alienate someone based on arbitrary criteria—secular or religious—it’s a slippery slope that could lead to an authoritarian government,” he said. “[Leaders such as Wilkins] express genuine concern for American citizens—but only those who fit a narrow definition.”

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