College students protest Proposition 8

In the wake of the presidential election that spurred a movement of unprecedented numbers of young voters, political experts speculated as to whether young people would continue to take an active role in politics. Saturday they got their answer — a resounding yes. Thousands of college students participated in a nationwide protest of the passage of Proposition 8, the state bill in California that revoked the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry, in some cases serving as the sole organizers of the protests in their respective cities, including Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh event, which was held at Schenley Plaza in Oakland, drew 450 protesters — college students as well as their parents, neighbors, and other supporters, both gay and straight. Attendees passed around a microphone and took turns sharing their experiences and words of encouragement. Others held signs expressing similar sentiments, from “My gay child deserves civil rights” and “Love knows no gender” to “Civil marriage is a civil right” and “When do I vote on your marriage?”

“I wanted Pittsburgh to come together in unity [as] a community, and when I saw there was no rally to be had in Pittsburgh, I asked if there was anything I could do to make this happen,” stated Misty Harvey, a resident of Erie, Pa. who was the official organizer of the protest, via e-mail.

The national protest was conceived and organized by Join the Impact (, an organization devoted to achieving equality for the LGBT community through positive outreach and education, according to the group’s mission statement. According to Harvey, students from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Carlow University were involved in the planning of the event.

Harvey’s goals of spreading the message of equality were shared by many of the protest’s attendees.

“I was very disappointed about Proposition 8 passing,” stated Jordan Rubenstein, a junior and president of ALLIES, Carnegie Mellon’s student organization that advocates for LGBT issues, via e-mail. “I don’t think that it’s fair for people’s prejudices to be written into law and to take away my rights. The purpose of laws is to protect the people, not to harm people. Proposition 8 does not help anyone, but it does legislate LGBT individuals’ being treated as second-class citizens.”

Rubenstein and about 10 other ALLIES members attended the protest as a group, although she stated that ALLIES was not involved in the planning of the event.

Other students present at the rally were similarly positive about the outcome of the protest.

“I’m happy that the LGBT community has felt an urgency in the civil rights we’re fighting for,” said Justin Wasser, a junior political science major at the University of Pittsburgh, at Saturday’s protest.

Wasser, a gay rights activist, took the fall semester off to campaign for Barack Obama. He believes that Obama’s election is partially responsible for changing Americans’ attitudes about discrimination and tolerance for the better, but still sees that the country has a long way to go, and thinks that the younger generation will determine how tolerant the country becomes.

Other protesters echoed Wasser’s sentiments.

“I came to show support for people who don’t have equal rights,” said Jeff Meek, a senior biology and psychology major at Carnegie Mellon. “Something like Proposition 8 either gives people hope or takes away hope.”

Meek is straight and said he is not affiliated with ALLIES, but that he attends LGBT-related events like the protest to show his support when he can.

Harvey is optimistic that college students are part of the generation that will eventually see equal rights granted to homosexual couples, regardless of the state in which they live.