By Kyle Elphick
Instead of enjoying the summer weather, many students at the College buzzed excitedly, armed with pens, pencils, notebooks and laptops in the Library Auditorium. These students were waiting to see Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a representative of New Jersey’s 15th district, which includes Trenton. His lecture on Friday, Sept. 18, in the auditorium, tackled hot-button issues, such as birthright citizenship and marriage equality.
The driving force behind the talk was an analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution. The talk coincided with Constitution Day, a federal observance celebrated on Thursday, Sept. 17, the day before the event took place. Federal legislation that created Constitution Day mandates that all publicly-funded educational institutions deliver Constitution-related
teachings on or near this day. In the eyes of many students, Gusciora’s lecture went above and beyond meeting this requirement for the College.
The group of students who attended the event shared some common characteristics. These include a passion for American government and a love of politics and law. Yet, it was individual interest that drew each person to the talk.
“I’m personally concerned with equality in this country,” junior political science major Luke Hertzel said.
The central conceit of Gusciora’s lecture was concise and clear. He first introduced a question of constitutionality making waves in the media. Through the use of video clips involving the opinions of important political figures and other influential citizens, his message was better conveyed. He then applied this issue to excerpts from the Constitution itself, as well as relevant congressional laws and judicial rulings, thereby determining the Constitutional answer to society’s most controversial hot-button issues.
“Let’s follow the Constitution,” he said in reference to the viewpoint of many Americans on how the nation should go about deciding what is right and wrong. “But very few people know what that means.”
Gusciora dove into a lecture packed with controversial constitutional issues. Through his analysis of birthright citizenship, he explained that even if one is born overseas, they can still be president as long as one of his or her parents is a U.S. citizen. Furthermore, despite the objections Gusciora highlighted from politicians Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, the 14th Amendment ensures that all people born within the United States are legal citizens — this applying to the children of illegal immigrants, as well.
Gusciora then tackled the views of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who still refuses to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefelle v. Hodges, the case that legalized same sex marriage in the United States. Gusciora analyzed, despite the religious views driving her actions, that Davis had no justification in going against the law of the Constitution due to the fact that her job required her to take an oath to serve it faithfully.
The assemblyman stayed in the vein of marriage equality to tackle his final major issue — whether business owners have the right to deny service to specific customers based on their beliefs. Gusciora determined that, due to the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, no business has this right because doing so would interfere with interstate trade.
Gusciora imparted a host of political lessons on his young constituents. A simple statement from Gusciora — “We are complex” — perhaps best explains a nation in which a single document produces so much controversy, discussion and passion.