The Welles-Brown room opened its door for a debate Monday as the Pride Network kicked off the annual event of “Gaypril,” where the month of April is host to a series of events designed to promote gay pride and create discussion and awareness of the homosexual movement.At 6:30 p.m., representatives from several groups were brought together to have a discussion about gay rights, focusing primarily on marriage and adoption. Some of the speakers had been invited to speak on their groups’ behalf, while others had their own reasons. “I’m here to support my friends and I feel like I haven’t been exposed to all sides of this debate, as I come from a conservative family,” freshman Janna Gewirtz said.Many sides to the debate were presented. Among the speakers who formed the “Inner Circle,” designated for leaders of the discussion, included members from Campus Crusade for Christ, Catholic Newman Community, College Democrats, College Republicans, Pride Network, Students for Liberty, and Students for Social Justice. The event, moderated by University Intercessor Kathy Sweetland, aimed for a civil discussion of the controversies surrounding homosexual rights. “I hope that it’s a mutually enlightening event,” Sweetland said, “If you walked in the door with a particular assumption, tuck it away.” That was in keeping with the eight themes of the night, all of which were posted around the room as a reminder. The themes varied from ‘respect and value differences’ to ‘build relationships’ to, above all, ‘Listen without judgment.’Sweetland also noted that this was meant to be a discussion, not a debate. However the discussion was meant to go, it started off with lines being quickly drawn. “This claim in contemporary discussion [about marriage in all cultures] needs facts,” senior and Students for Social Justice member Dave Ladon said, mentioning examples such as Greek sodomy, Maori culture, and a certain African ceremony. “In the Sudan, if a man fornicates with a pig, he has to marry it,” said Ladon. Eventually, the debate calmed down, with several students in the “Outer Circle” interjecting personal comments as well. The main discussion focused on the entwinement of the church and state, but extended to adoption, divorce, and the sexuality of one’s children. “When government gets too mixed up in religious matters, it’s hard to step back,” Students for Liberty member Matt Schultz said.”I don’t know why marriage is in the realm of public policy,” another student said.Gay marriage has been a dominating social issue in the past few years, especially since 12 states amended their constitutions to declare gay marriage to be illegal. That, coupled with fierce debate at the national level, has brought a great deal of attention to gay rights, which is one of the missions of the Pride network. “Our goal is for the awareness, education, and discussion around sexuality and gender,” Yurchyk said.The Pride Network will continue its Gaypril campaign with several upcoming events. The Students’ Association-funded organization co-sponsors the Cinema Group’s showing of “Brokeback Mountain” this Saturday, as well as a showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” later this month. In addition, the Pride Network is bringing UR a drag show, the Day of Silence, and “one of our biggest events, the UR Drag Show,” Yurchyk said.The festivities and events will extend to the end of the month, continuing in the traditions of years past.As the Pride Network moved forward with its discussion, one student perfectly captured what the Pride Network has been trying to achieve. “I think one of the best things about America is that we’re from a country that fosters diversity,” freshman Julianne Nigro said.Brenneman can be reached at

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