Spectrum, the gay-straight alliance at Auburn University, has had quite the emotional semester already. The group felt a lot of tension when couples they had become close with throughout the Auburn community were told their relationships couldn’t count as marriage. They later felt an overwhelming sense of joy when the news broke that gay marriage would finally be legal in Alabama. We talked one-on-one with the group’s president and director of social affairs, Ariel Barasch, to get the low-down on the whole situation.
While Barasch says the group didn’t have a direct impact on legalizing gay marriage stating, “we didn’t go out in the streets and picket or anything,” Spectrum has worked to make their political voice heard in the past. A few years ago, the group got “gender identity and expression” added to the non-discrimination clause in Auburn’s constitution, which is something they were especially proud of. Barasch said, “So, if a man wants to dress as a woman, previously he could be persecuted. Like someone could beat him up, and he didn’t have any protection. Or, a professor could fail him in class for wearing a dress to class one day, and that was just, like, a thing that was allowed.”
Although Barasch doesn’t think Spectrum directly changed the state’s laws on gay marriage, she does know people who were quite aggressive in advocating for their equality. A number of couples who sued the State of Alabama for the right to be married came and talked to Spectrum, and shared their stories.
Since the recent law changes, Barasch and other Spectrum members have had the opportunity to see many of these people finally legally validate their relationships. “I do know people who have gotten married since it’s passed. I have a lot of gay couple friends that have been living together for years, like 5, 6, 7 years, who are basically married already and finally just got to put a ring on it officially,” she said. These couples will now receive the same tax benefits as their straight counterparts, and will receive the same benefits from the university.
Barasch looks forward to homosexuality and non-traditional relationships becoming more mainstream now. “The idea is that gays and gay marriage will just sort of slip into the mainstream and people who are still homophobic will quiet down, because it’s not their time to shine anymore,” she said, “It’s now our time to shine.”
Since the recent law changes, the group has met a few times, and looks forward to the future with much anticipation. However, Barasch feels their fight for equality is not over yet. “Well, the dynamic has changed because we’re like all excited and happy about it and stuff. But, at the same time, Alabama is just one out of the 50 states. While it’s a big step forward that we’re the first truly ridiculously red state to get this passed, there are still a lot of ridiculously red states that don’t have it passed,” she said. She also mentions that marriage equality is just the beginning. Even if all 50 states legalize gay marriage, there’s more rights that need to be advocated for. She mentioned polyamory legalization, protection rights and adoption rights as potential next steps in equality post-gay marriage.
Barasch hopes that one day everyone will be accepted for who they are, but still feels Spectrum will always serve an important purpose even when this occurs. “I think Spectrum will always have its place, but its focus will become a lot less political, and a lot more social,” she said, “There are groups on campus for people who aren’t attacked, all sorts of groups, for people who just have similar interests.”
Spectrum meets every Wednesday in Student Center Room 2222 at 7:00pm and is always accepting new members.
**UPDATE: As of March 3, 2015, Alabama has haulted the issuing of same-sex marriage licences**