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Letter to the editor

Oppression leads to discrimination

May 1, 2009

I am compelled to respond to the opinion piece written by Ms. Shawna Carpentier (“Columnist believes poli- tics, religion inseparable”) published in the April 17 issue of the Student Voice. Ms. Carpentier was reacting to another’s contention that “religion and morality had no place in the issue of same-sex marriage.”

I understand her perspective as being this country was founded on Christian values and that marriage, being a religious institution, needs to be protected in the present from the infringement of lesbian and gay people seeking access to marriage and that we cannot really separate church from state in this regard.

While I agree marriage has been traditionally a religious institution, it is officially sanctioned by the federal government of the United States as a civil institution, as well.

If we had true separation of church and state in this regard, I think the government would get out of the business of marriage altogether, rather sanctioning civil unions for everyone, heterosexual and lesbian and gay, alike, and leaving marriage in the domain of religious institutions.

With that said, I think a more critical issue was tapped in me when I read this article and to which I have responded previously at another institution.

Oppression is oppression. Its packaging may appear to be different on the surface, but its insidious effects are no less devastating, particularly for its intended targets and, ultimately, for all of us.

For when one group of people is discriminated against, we are all vulnerable as potential targets of oppression and discrimination. By fighting amongst and between them, persons in oppressed groups remain in the positions the oppressor has put them and wants them to stay: disempowered and shut out from the privileges associated with being dominant.

There are common and parallel threads, both in terms of history and the human experience of less- than-equitable treatment, running through all groups of oppressed persons who have sought or who are seeking the civil rights we are supposedly guaranteed through the U.S. Constitution.

Instead of arguing whose experience of oppression is worse than another’s experience, as well as justifying why the status quo is applicable in the present, we should be coming together, sharing our experiences, addressing our fears, healing our pain, moving toward understanding and becoming allies working for justice for all people.

Doing so is not being “politically correct,” it is our obligation as citizens of this country…and the world.
I commend UWRF in working toward the fulfillment of its obligation to persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning, as well as to all other persons on this campus. As such, I extend an invitation to all on this campus who want to come together through dialogue to seek deeper understandings of the members of our campus community and to become the change we wish to seek in the world.

Todd A. Savage
College of Education and Professional Studies