It shouldn’t even be a debate.
I’ll admit – I’m curious as to what fellow contributor Lauren Rockwell’s argument is regarding the LGBT Student Services (LGBTSS) Office’s presentation of “8,” the pro-marriage equality play, at LMU tomorrow night. From my point of view, not as an LGBT individual, nor as someone who is pro-marriage equality, but simply as an LMU student, I fail to see a single valid reason why the play shouldn’t be read on our campus.
Agree or disagree with what the play is arguing, the fact is that the show must go on, not because of the subject matter, but because it is an expression of a faction of students’ opinions. Their voices deserve to be heard.
For those who aren’t familiar with the play, “8” is a dramatic interpretation of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial currently headed for the Supreme Court. The case is about the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the infamous amendment to the California constitution that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Written by Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Milk,” “8” is an unabashedly biased and activist look at the trial, but it never pretends to be anything else.
Controversy brewed about the presentation of “8” on LMU’s campus when The Cardinal Newman Society posted an article about this on its blog. The post, which has been picked up by a couple other Catholic blogs but has failed to make a dent in the greater media sphere, argues that LMU is promoting gay “marriage” (complete with incredibly condescending quotation marks) through its production of “8.”
What The Cardinal Newman Society fails to understand is that if LMU were to shut down the production of “8,” the University would be silencing student voices simply because they are at odds with the Catholic Church’s positions – a terrifying proposition, and completely at odds with the Jesuit mission to educate the whole person and encourage learning, as LMU’s mission statement reads.
When asked about “8” in an interview with the Loyolan, ASLMU President Bryan Ruiz said that he believes LMU students’ self-expression “does need to be heard.” LMU and President David Burcham are clearly working with the same mindset, and their refusal to cancel the show is inspiring.
I’m incredibly proud to go to a religiously-affiliated school that is comfortable presenting a pro-marriage equality play on its campus while not fully endorsing it. To endorse the show would indeed be a violation of the Catholic position, something we shouldn’t ask the University to do. But to shut it down would violate our mission. So in truth, President Burcham and his administration have done the only thing they can do without appearing hypocritical to some part of the University’s identity.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about why I think “8” is so great and how important the message it will spread to students is. That’s because “8” isn’t great, and I think said important message is something the majority of our student body already supports.
On paper, “8” is a clumsily written play, full of preachy monologues and an unwillingness to portray marriage equality opponents as anything but morons. The marriage equality debate deserves a better dramatic interpretation, and I have no doubt that several years down the road, we’ll see one. But a show being bad isn’t any reason to censor it from running. As the Loyolan’s primary theatre critic for the past two years, I’ve certainly seen shows I didn’t like, but you never once heard me call for their cancellation out of sheer disgust. Besides, the point of “8” isn’t to be great theatre – it’s activist in nature.
The message it is spreading, however, is something I think most students on this campus and across the country already feel: Marriage equality is the right thing for right now. Even among young conservatives in the U.S., support for same-sex marriage is rapidly rising. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from May shows that almost half of young conservatives do indeed support marriage equality – and among young liberals, that number is sky-high. So, I don’t necessarily think a college campus, even a Jesuit one like LMU’s, is the most effective stage for a play like “8.”
What does any of this matter? Simple: It doesn’t. No matter how bad the play is, how repetitive its message may be or how much it may get The Cardinal Newman Society’s panties into a bunch, there is simply no valid reason to cancel “8.” At the end of the day, this is about students’ free expression, and we go to a school that values said expression.
That’s something worth celebrating, not debating.
This is the opinion of Kevin O’Keeffe, a junior screenwriting major from Austin, Texas. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.