Gay marriage and the war in Iraq were the hot topics at a political forum sponsored by Uni?n Latina (UL) in the Travers and Wolfe Main Lounge Monday night. Other topics of discussion included immigration, education and the economy.
Members of the College Democrats, Republicans and the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), along with the audience, remained calm as the forum began by debating the issues of immigration and education. When the discussion turned to the topic of gay marriage, however, emotions flared.
The College Republicans argued President George W. Bush’s position as a desire to strengthen the Defense of Marriage Act. Bush feels that gay marriage doesn’t encourage strong families and that marriage between a man and a woman has been sanctified by religions worldwide, Matt Esposito, secretary of the College Republicans, said.
Liz Imperato, a member of the College Democrats, countered this argument. “(Sen. John Kerry) feels that gay marriage is a state issue,” she said. “You can’t bring religion into it.”
Scott Blair, also of the College Democrats, said Kerry’s position is one for civil unions and partnership rights but against marriage between same-sex couples.
The sentiment of PSA representatives was clear on the war in Iraq. Matt Richman, a member, said the war was never just or moral. Paul Harris, senior political science major, supported this statement and said the war in Iraq was a war of choice, not of necessity.
The College Republicans defended Bush’s decision to go to war.
When asked about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kevin Kelly, a College Republican, said although the government has not found anything concrete yet, it has found many ambiguous things. The College Democrats said Kerry supports Bush’s decision to go to war but opposes the way in which the war has been fought.
The topics of immigration, the economy and education were less controversial.
Regarding immigration, the Guest Worker Program was brought up. This program would require all immigrant workers to register with the government; they would receive a five-year work pass.
Chris Kuhn, vice chairman of the College Republicans and a political science major, said that open immigration is good because it benefits the economy. He added that all people should be registered in order to protect national security.
The College Democrats said Kerry’s plan of action is to educate immigrants, make it easier to reunite families that have immigrated and create an embassy program.
The topic of education taxation was also a main focus. Imperato said Kerry is working on ending tax breaks for companies that engage in off-shoring, cutting taxes and health care premiums and raising minimum wage to $7 an hour by 2007. Kuhn said Bush plans on reducing taxes and enabling people to spend more money, which would help both big and small businesses and increase the standard of living.
The No Child Left Behind Act was a crucial point of discussion within the topic of education. Esposito supported the act and said that with it, children will not be left in terrible schools and be bounced around from grade to grade and all children will be able to read at grade level.
“No one loses with No Child Left Behind,” Esposito said. “Schools don’t fail.” Blair said one problem with the program is that states have to spend more money to implement it than the amount of funding they receive.
Keith Lucas, political awareness chair for UL, said the purpose of the forum was to bring a more direct political atmosphere to the College. “(UL was) trying to give students a chance to engage in healthy political discussions, without (walking away) emotionally torn or highly upset,” he said.
In the eyes of the College Republicans this goal was not accomplished. “The atmosphere was overwhelmingly hostile toward the Republicans,” Kelly said. “While the purpose of the forum was to elicit each candidate’s agenda for the next four years, it seemed like the most time was spent on us defending the president from partisan attacks.”
Audience opinions on the effectiveness of the meeting were mixed.
“It was way too drawn out and not effective,” Cindy Hanna, freshman criminology and justice studies major, said.
Others disagreed. “The College Republicans seemed well-prepared and answered questions effectively,” Lauren DiMatteo, freshman open options business major, said. “I learned a lot.”