Penn Democrats and College Republicans released a statement affirming their support for same-sex marriage today, along with nearly 50 other college political groups across the country.
The two reached out to other groups for nearly two months, asking leaders to sign on either themselves or on behalf of their organizations.
“We, the Presidents of College Democrats and College Republicans chapters from across America, stand united to affirm the right of all Americans to marry the person they love, regardless of gender. We challenge our nation’s leaders to join us in defense of marriage equality for LGBTQ couples,” the statement reads.
Penn Dems president and College sophomore Matthew Kalmans said that while there was a “tremendous amount of logistical challenge” involved in securing support for the statement, he is pleased with the results.
“We’re students, and we have a unique ability to start a trend,” he said. “Just because the national [Republican] Party doesn’t happen to stand on the right side of history at the moment, we can acknowledge that this … is something important to us.”
The groups listed on the statement includes colleges from Massachusetts to California and about ten Republican groups. While Kalmans was pleased with the number of Republican signees — whose national platform opposes same-sex marriage — College Republicans president and College junior Arielle Klepach said she would like to see even more bipartisan support.
“While I understand why people would be hesitant, I obviously wish there would have been more widespread responses,” Klepach said. “But I guess that’s to be expected.”
At first, Penn Dems and College Republicans reached out to organizations on both sides of the aisle at each Ivy League school with the hopes of a unanimous Ivy League statement in support of same-sex marriage. But after several Ivies were “hostile” to the idea, Kalmans said, the two groups made the decision to open the statement to more schools.
They contacted each school ranked as a top 50 college by U.S. News and World Report, and Kalmans said only two groups voiced their opposition to the effort, even though not all were willing to put their name to a statement.
Tufts Democrats President Bronwen Raff said she received an email asking for support about two months ago.
“The reaction from my organization was overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “We were only a little bit upset that we hadn’t thought to do it first.”
Stanford Democrats Co-President Nick Ahamed was similarly happy to sign on to the statement.
“We thought it was really cool,” Ahamed said. “We were really excited to see something that was cross-national, at a lot of different campuses.”
Raff said that the initiative sparked new collaboration between Tufts Democrats and Republicans, who are now planning a co-sponsored symposium on immigration reform. Penn Democrats and College Republicans have also begun partnering on same-sex marriage and have indicated a desire to continue the partnership on other issues.
The two Penn organizations are encouraging all participating groups to tweet and post to Facebook about the statement today, using the hashtag #unitedforlove. They have also set up a Facebook page called Students United for Marriage Equality.
“Between all of us, there’s such a wide network of people that we can make aware of the fact that we’re doing this,” Klepach said. “The ultimate goal is to not only make other college-age students aware that there’s so much support for marriage equality, but also policymakers.”
Both Klepach and Kalmans said that while they can’t predict if or how the initiative will impact legislation or public opinion, they hope that it will help push an already-growing trend forward.
“My hope is that seeing a young Republican and growing Democrat population both in support of marriage equality will continue to give some senators the comfort they need to announce their support, to not feel that they’re in some sort of electoral danger,” Kalmans said.
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