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Marriage Equality: Not an Issue for the Under-30 Generation

When it comes to gay marriage, the question isn't 'Why?' but 'Why Not'

Credit: Amanda Brown Murphy

When Kim Kardashian pulled the plug on her marriage 72 days after saying "I do" on her reality TV show, there was plenty of head shaking, but nobody claimed it to be an abomination of the traditions and values of marriage.

Yet when a gay couple commits to spending their lives together and do so free of any celebrity-level scandals, suddenly there are attacks from left and right (mostly right). And the two words that Kim and others toss around like 24-carat engagement rings become the two words gay couples can't seem to say proudly in the state of New Jersey -- for now.

As a student at Emerson College, one of the top LGBT-friendly schools in the country, and having grown up in north Jersey, where acceptance of the gay community seemed almost second nature, it's clear that the higher approval ratings of marriage equality stem from the younger generation and are continuing to climb.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll conducted this past summer found that 70 percent of people under the age of 30 support gay marriage. With a small twist of terminology, 75 percent support the idea of marriage equality.

As marriage equality becomes a major priority in the legislative session starting on Tuesday, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) expressed his beliefs on the subject. Gusciora teaches at The College of New Jersey and in his classes hears the opinions many young adults have about the issue.

"I see students in my American Government class who don't ask 'Why,' but say 'Why Not,'" he said. "It is the next generation who see no problem in recognizing that marriage is an institution that should be afforded all persons who remain committed to a partnership, whether they are gay or straight."

This idea resonates with the younger crowd in that many of us could care less whether Mr. Brown down the street gets hitched to Mr. Smith in the town over. Today, LGBT awareness has become more prominent, through the Internet, TV, and countless other ways we stay connected. Homosexuals are no longer hiding out, and it seems that the under-30-year-olds have accepted it and moved on.

Chairman and chief executive officer of Garden State Equality, Steven Goldstein, spoke about how many younger voters don't understand how gay marriage affects anyone else. That's where the problem lies. It affects nobody else, but is life changing for the ones trying to legitimize their relationship.

"Young people don't get what the fuss is about, it's a head scratcher for them," Goldstein said.

If we were to wait another ten years, there would be little opposition to the matter, and these marriage equality bills would prove to be a no brainer as the "who cares" generation moves its way up. But waiting for this to happen is not on the agenda.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) admitted to making the mistake of abstaining on marriage equality three years ago, but after seeing the issue as a matter of civil rights and nothing else, he has brought his opinions in line with Goldstein's.

"It took a couple of years," Goldstein said. "But Sweeney and I are finally playing on the same team"

Whichever team we decide to play on, young folks are less concerned with who loves whom and are ready to move past this debate and on to more compelling issues. Student debt anyone?

Jamie Bogert is an intern at NJ Spotlight. She is a student at Emerson College pursuing a career in the field of journalism. As the assistant lifestyle editor of her student-run newspaper, she has reported on Emerson students, covered events as well as breaking news in Boston.

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