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Last year, Penn celebrated National Freedom to Marry Day with demonstrations promoting the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples.

Credit: ?Courtesy of Penn Lambda Alliance

While LGBTQ supporters celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in Alabama on Feb. 9, no official celebration of National Freedom to Marry Day was planned at Penn this year. This is the first time that the unofficial holiday — celebrated on Feb. 12 — has passed since same-sex marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania.

LGBTQ activist group Lambda Legal founded the holiday in 1999 to promote marriage equality. In the past, Penn has celebrated the holiday with demonstrations promoting the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples with demonstrations around campus, ranging from serving wedding cake with two-bride and two-groom toppers to taking photos in front of a rainbow-decorated Love Statue on campus. The 2013 event was co-sponsored by both Penn Democrats and PennCollege Republicans, along with LGBTQ umbrella association, Lambda Alliance.

However, this year, LGBTQ and supporting organizations did not plan an event to commemorate the holiday. The lack of attention to the event begs the question of whether the fight is almost over for same-sex marriage rights. In the UCLA National Survey on Higher Education About Social Norms, the percentage of college freshmen who supported same-sex marriage rights increased by 17.2 percentage points in five years, from 64.3 in 2009 and 81.5 in 2014.

“When [the board of Lambda Alliance] discussed what our priorities were for the term, marriage equality was not something that stuck out,” Lambda Alliance Chair and College junior Erich Kessel said. “It’s not a reflection on importance — it’s just not an immediate concern for us.”

Some of the issues that Lambda is currently focusing on are LGBTQ faculty diversity and violence against transgender people. However, Kessel still recognizes the legalization of same-sex marriage as an important issue.

“I just think [the legalization] is important in a basic way recognizing queer people as full citizens, almost as a form of security,” Kessel said.

The Lambda Alliance’s decision to not hold any celebratory events for National Freedom to marry day comes after the May 2014 decision that lifted the 1996 ban on same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Erin Cross, the Senior Associate Director of the LGBT Center,thinks there is no planned celebration because the group that hosted the event, the Allies — an organization of non-LGBTQ identifying students who support LGBTQ rights — no longer exists. She also said that the lack of celebration is likely due to the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 of the 50 states.

“As marriage becomes legal in more and more states, students feel that that battle has been won,” Cross said.

For some students, the issue of same-sex marriage is not clear-cut. College junior and co-founder of Penn Non-Cis Roderick Cook thinks that not celebrating National Freedom to Marry Day is a step in the right direction for LGBTQ rights.

“I think that it’s a very good thing that [same-sex marriage] is not granting national attention because it’s taking a lot of resources and money from the LGBTQ movement as a whole for the past few decades,” Cook said.

Cook, who is also a former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, believes that one of the reasons that same-sex marriage is not receiving a lot of attention from the mainstream media is because there are other more pressing matters.

“I think that a lot of the conversation that’s happening now around issues is moving more towards violence,” Cook said. “Hate violence is something we need to focus on rather than looking for inclusion in some of these systems.”

Cook thinks, rather than integrating same-sex couples into the existing institution of marriage, there should be other easier options for couples to acquire the rights that marriage offers, such as insurance and adoption.

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