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Same-sex marriage gets real at Portland campus

Students speak out as Oregon county allows it

By Christy Moorehouse
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Christy Moorehouse, assistant editor at The Bridge, the Portland Community College student newspaper. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or Portland Community College.

Reyanna, right, and Samantha Stephens, seen here on their wedding day, have lived together for 10 years.

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Campus Vibe

PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- Events have proven: Provide licenses for men to marry men and women to marry women and you'll get a line at the door.

The Portland Community College was touched by this issue on March 3, the day same-sex marriage was legally recognized by the state of Oregon in Multnomah County -- the seat of government in Portland. Couples got up early that day to stand outside the county courthouse to wait for doors to open.

"We were there by 4 a.m.," the newly married Samantha Stephens said. She's president of Phi Theta Kappa at Portland Community College's Sylvania campus and her now-wife Reyanna Stephens is vice president.

The Stephens were the 24th couple in a line of more than 100.

Although the office didn't open until just before 10 a.m., Reyanna said, "Time flew by. It was a great feeling to be in a crowd of people who are madly in love with each other."

Oregon law states marriage is "a civil contract entered into by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age." It does not define marriage as between one woman and one man exclusively.

The chief counsel of the Oregon Legislature advised Multnomah County commissioners withholding marriage licenses from same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

Commissioners then directed that licensing policy be changed to include couples of the same gender.

The line for licenses wound around the block that day and the Portland Tribune reported that the number of marriage licenses issued that day broke records.

Most OK with it, but not all

Nicole Berge, psychology major at Portland Community College, said she was shocked when she heard people of the same sex were legally marrying in Portland. "I disagree with it completely."

She straightened in her chair. "It'll make the world go to hell. It's corrupted already. This just adds to the list," the student, who identified herself as a Christian and a Republican, said.

But Kelsey Covin, interior design major at PCC, said she is completely supportive of the Multnomah County decision.

"This is a civil rights issue," she said. Banning same-sex marriage "gives privilege to a group of people that is not allowed to everyone else."

Russell Johnson, a second-year nursing student, said government should have nothing to do with marriage. "It should be between the couple."

Christy Moorehouse is a student reporter at the campuses of Portland Community College.

When asked about a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, he exclaimed, "What a waste of ink!"

Although many PCC students said they believe the same-sex marriage issue should take a back seat to the debate on the war in Iraq and federal spending, others said it can't wait.

First-year student Jessica Conforth said if the Bush administration accomplishes a ban on same-sex marriage it will affect her family.

Conforth's mother is a lesbian. "We're talking about the sanctity of marriage. Bush doesn't [speak] of heterosexuals marrying then divorcing at a rate of over 50 percent; but he's not allowing people who love each other the (same)opportunity."

Making history

For Samantha and Reyanna Stephens, the opportunity to have their commitment legally recognized was historic. Portland Mayor Vera Katz congratulated the multitude of newlyweds who met at Keller Auditorium to have ceremonies conducted.

The Stephens took a photo with the mayor after their ceremony. "[Katz] was genuinely supportive. It's incredibly important to have that," Samantha said.

Mrs. And Mrs. Stephens arrived at Sylvania campus after the day's events. An "impromptu celebration" was held by Phi Theta Kappa members in honor of the newlyweds with party favors, sparkling cider, and of course, cake.

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