Forum Panel Addresses DOMA and Equality
On Monday, February 4th Fordham Law’s Forum on Law, Culture & Society hosted a rousing panel “Conversation on Same Sex Marriage: Law and Culture” at the Time Warner Center. Though forum headliner Debra Messing was absent due to conflicts with her film schedule, Thane Rosenbaum, moderator of the panel and director of the Forum was quick to note that “the heavy lumber, the brains,” were all there. Esteemed panelists included Frank Bruni, the first openly gay Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, Max Mutchnick, the creator of “Will & Grace,” and Christine C. Quinn, the first female and lesbian Speaker of the New York City Council.
The conversation began with a somber tribute to late Mayor Ed Koch, a past Forum guest, but soon moved into more lighthearted territory. Three video clips from the popular television show “Will & Grace” were used to frame the overarching question of the night: Have cultural representations of and real-world interaction with members of the LGBT community shifted America’s view more favorably toward marriage equality, or would it have happened anyway?
The panel discussed a variety of topics including why same sex marriage is so important, and debated the importance of President’s Obama’s “evolution” in publicly supporting the right. Though the group consensus seemed to be approval of President Obama’s support of marriage equality, Bruni noted that the president’s views have “evolved, devolved, and evolved again,” a reference to President Obama’s support of marriage equality when he first ran for the Illinois Senate in 1996. Politics are very much at play, Bruni observed: “The realist in [President Obama] knows … if he tried to decree same-sex marriage from coast to coast it wouldn’t work.”
Speaker Quinn emphasized that other rights, like preventing someone from getting fired or unlawfully evicted from their home because of his sexual orientation, “are not happy events. They prevent a negative from occurring.” Marriage is, she continued, “God willing, a happy event,” that many people are excluded from in society.
All three speakers used the night to encourage activism. Bruni stressed the importance of coming out and Mutchnik reminded everyone why marriage equality is so important: “That gay nerd in high school [needs] to feel like he can be a quarterback.” Quinn embodied the theme of the evening best when she passionately stated: “The worst phrase ever created is ‘it is what it is.’ It is what you make it into!”
–Ali Krimmer, Staff Writer