Last month’s vote to legalize same-sex marriage in New York was a welcome victory in the struggle to provide all Americans, no matter their sexual orientation, with equal rights. It is self-evident that people should have the right to marry whom they love.
The Tech fully endorses the New York vote. We ask that students who feel the same way contact their state and federal representatives from their home states and demand marriage equality. Demand that our country hold itself to its core principle: we’re all created equal.
There’s also work to be done here at MIT. An issue with as many misconceptions and as much misinformation about it as same-sex marriage obliges scientists and engineers to set the record straight. MIT is well-poised to help do just that. For instance, it is simply not true that gay or lesbian parents are any worse at raising children than heterosexual couples (for a literature review, see Anderssen et al., 2002 in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology). Furthermore, gay and lesbian couples marry because they love each other (Ramos et al., 2009 from UCLA’s Williams Institute), not because there’s a plot to destroy the institution of “traditional” marriage. Finally, a majority of Americans — 53 percent — believe that same-sex marriages should be legal, according to a May 2011 Gallup poll. If you’ve been unable to make up your mind on this issue, look no further than the data: same-sex marriage is as healthy as heterosexual marriage, and most Americans support it.
But what can advance understanding and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community members at MIT? So far, the Institute has been a leader among the country’s universities in providing support and services for LGBT students. In that vein, continuing institutional support for LGBT groups, programs, and services is crucial.
However, significant challenges remain. The spring 2011 Living Pink survey collected hundreds of comments from on and off-campus MIT living groups about students’ attitudes towards peers with different sexual orientations. While many respondents said their living groups were welcoming, supportive environments, several cited instances of passive or active hate, at least one of which went unreported.
One commenter said, “This is MIT. This is the 21st century. Nobody cares if you’re gay.” But other comments indicated the opposite. The truth is, some people — even at MIT — do care if you’re gay.
MIT needs to work harder to ensure that everybody in the MIT community 1) is aware that LGBT community members face discrimination because of their sexual orientation and 2) understands that solving these problems requires work from all of us — LGBT and non-LGBT alike.
The Division of Student Life (DSL), in conjunction with LGBT student groups, should formulate ways to bring substantial, meaningful awareness of LGBT issues to all sectors of campus. Whether it be combating hateful name-calling (unintentional or otherwise), social marginalization, vandalism, or violence, MIT should be a leader in making its campus a truly accepting place. The exact mechanisms to bring this kind of awareness to MIT should be a point of ongoing discussion and are outside the scope of this editorial. What is clear is that making MIT an accepting place means getting everybody involved — at least aware — and DSL is in a position to push for this goal.
Much work remains among MIT faculty as well. Few faculty members are out, and this contributes to a less welcoming academic support environment; faculty members of older generations may not be as accepting as current students of LGBT community members. DSL and the Provost’s office should pay much closer attention to this issue.
This editorial is by no means an exhaustive analysis of the challenges between where we are now and a fully tolerant MIT community. We hope, however, to start a more open and frank dialogue between the LGBT community and allies, the administration, and faculty.
Ryan Normandin has published a dissent to this editorial.