BOWLING GREEN - When some sociology professors last spring began planning a same-sex marriage forum at Bowling Green State University, they didn't know the growing global issue would hit so close to home.
But as the area's first same-sex marriage conference is held this afternoon at BGSU, organizers will have additional discussion material: Ohio's marriage amendment approved by voters in November and the ongoing issue of whether to provide domestic partner benefits at BGSU.
Starting at 2 p.m., hundreds of people are expected to gather in the university's student union to debate the issue of gay marriage - with a look at the legal, cultural/moral, and behavioral issues surrounding it.
The conference, "Same-Sex Marriage: On the Frontiers of Legal and Social Change," will include panelists from New York University, Northwestern University, and Stanford University, as well as BGSU.
Both sides of the issue will be presented and argued, with time set aside for panel discussions and questions from the audience. The event, scheduled to run until 6:15 p.m., is free and open to the public.
"We do hope to have a scholarly debate," said Rekha Mirchandani, an assistant professor of sociology at BGSU. "We know this will have broad appeal."
Ms. Mirchandani said she's optimistic the conference will draw people from the campus and the community to discuss the issues surrounding gay marriage. She and other organizers said they were unaware of any other regional conferences that have been held to date on the topic.
One of the four presenters will be Laura Sanchez, an associate sociology professor at BGSU, who's been studying marriage movements since the mid-1990s. She has received a national grant to research covenant marriage, but said she became interested in taking a look at same-sex marriage starting in the late 1990s.
Ms. Sanchez pointed to the fact that there are "struggles globally over gay marriage" as well as issues at home.
Last fall, for example, 13 states, including Ohio and Michigan, passed bans against same-sex marriage unions.
At the same time, courts in some U.S. states have ruled that bans on gay marriage violate fundamental state constitutional principles.
For Ms. Sanchez, she is looking for three specific outcomes for the conference, including discussion of the treatment/outlooks of same-sex marriage and whether people view it as a form of discrimination.
In addition to Ms. Sanchez, other panelists include Andrew Koppelman, a law and political science professor at Northwestern who has researched the issue of gay rights in contemporary American law.
Presenter Judith Stacey of New York University is a sociology professor who helped create the Council on Contemporary Families, a group of family researchers and clinicians focused on educating the public about family diversity.
The fourth presenter, Jennifer Roback Morse, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, has focused her work on the family and the free society, and has written a book chronicling why the family is the necessary building block for a free society and why so many other modern substitutes for the family do not work.
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