Editor’s note: Brandon Rohlwing (BA, ’16) wrote this post on marriage equality from Sydney, Australia, where he is interning for ReachOut Australia, an online mental health service for young people.
On Friday, history was made. I heard the news in the middle of the night, from halfway across the world in Australia: Marriage equality had finally come to all 50 of the United States. The moment I found out is something I will remember for the rest of my life as citizens across my native country finally gained the rights they had always deserved.
I saw a classmate of mine at Roosevelt University had retweeted the Human Rights Campaign’s announcement of the ruling. I immediately started reading the reactions pouring in over Twitter. I couldn’t help but cry.
As a member of the Roosevelt community, I have met people from all parts of the world, all with unique and powerful stories. Many times, I have heard that my fellow students love Roosevelt because it allows them to be themselves and not be judged. I appreciate that my university can provide such a safe space for many, but it’s also heartbreaking to know that it took 17, 18 or even more years for so many of our students to find a place accepting of who they are.
“I have heard that my fellow students love Roosevelt because it allows them to be themselves and not be judged.”
When I toured Roosevelt University in 2011, the inclusive environment for gender and sexual minorities is what attracted me the most. At the time, I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality. President Obama had yet to publicly announce his support of marriage equality, and marriage was equal in just six states and Washington, D.C. I wasn’t sure of what the future held for gender and sexual minorities. What I did know was that in order to be as happy and successful as possible, I needed to attend a university that supported my identity and me.
Roosevelt had (and continues to have) many student organizations that are inclusive and supportive of all students. We have gender-neutral housing (I’ve been the resident assistant for two years), which has led to a community of volunteerism and advocacy.
In my three years at Roosevelt, I’ve heard stories of pain and hurt from my classmates, stories of discrimination in their hometowns or within their families, because of their sexual identities and orientations. Roosevelt has provided them a safe place to express who they are. And I never would have thought that before I walked across the Auditorium Theatre stage to graduate that our country would recognize marriage equality nationwide. As I watched the news stories flood in Friday, I couldn’t help but think of every person I have encountered at Roosevelt who has struggled and faced discrimination because of who they love.
The ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is by no means the end of the fight for gender and sexual minorities. There are still many issues that need to be addressed. I look forward to working with my fellow students in the coming school year to continue our momentum in the fight for equality. We have the power as students to be catalysts for change.
In many parts of this country, people must still fear being fired from jobs, evicted from housing or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. People within the LGBTQI spectrum continue to face unique challenges. Transgender women, for example, and particularly those of color, face a disproportionately high rate of violence.
On campus, we can continue to have conversations about discrimination, community and intersectionality. These conversations can turn into action.
I am proud to be a part of a university that accepts everyone as they are and a nation that is finally following suit.