Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Week’s start colored by debate

The Rainbow Alliance says it’s time to “come out and play.”

Rainbow Week — six days of events highlighting and exploring gender and sexuality issues — commenced Monday with both celebration and conflict. Students commemorated the one year-anniversary of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center and confronted anti-gay activists at The Arch.

Wayne Lela of Woodridge, Ill., and John McCartney of Chicago — members of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment — stood at The Arch Monday morning and afternoon, passing out fliers that said homosexuals are corrupting journalism, entertainment, education and public health.

“Free speech issue, sir?” McCartney said as he handed the blue fliers to students crossing Sheridan Road.

Most students accepted the fliers and threw them in a nearby trash can.

Two female students stopped in front of Lela and McCartney and kissed each other on the lips.

One of the women said the kiss was a symbolic dismissal of the protester’s message of homosexual degradation.

But Rainbow Alliance member Sarah Burgess stopped to have a 20-minute talk with Lela.

“It’s good to hear the other side,” the Weinberg freshman said. She admitted that even though she disagreed with the men, they supported some of their claims with statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources.

“Considering how explosive this issue is, we’ve been treated pretty well,” McCartney said.

In the evening, students and staff gathered outside of the LGBT Center at Norris University Center to enjoy chocolate cake to mark the first anniversary of the center’s official opening.

After years of lobbying efforts, the LGBT Center opened during 2004 in a space that some considered too small and too public for its role. Students said Monday that the center had enjoyed a good first year but expressed hopes for future improvements to the space.

The center’s public location — seated squarely in the center of Norris’ third floor — is surrounded by student group offices. The placement is a “double-edged sword,” said Jenn Williams, who serves as the LGBT Center’s co-coordinator on a part-time basis.

“It gives a message: Here we are, in the middle of student offices. We’re not relegated to a basement,” said Williams, who is also a School of Continuing Studies graduate student.

But for students in need of confidentiality, the location can be problematic. Those uneasy about walking into the public resource center can speak with the staff via the internet, Williams said.

Rainbow Alliance’s Associated Student Government Sen. David Sternberg, a Weinberg freshman, said the center’s mere presence was important. As a high school senior not yet out to his parents, the Center’s staff made him “feel good” about his choice to come to Northwestern.

“The fact that the door is always open is just a symbol for acceptance on campus,” Sternberg said.

The Center’s current location has provided “a good start,” said Rainbow Alliance President Ellen Bird. But the 11-by-11 1/2-foot room quickly is reaching its full capacity for books and other research materials, she said. She added that it also needs a permanent staff.

As Rainbow Alliance continues to strengthen, it will look to incorporate more diverse voices from throughout NU’s gay community, said Bird, a Weinberg junior.

Both Sternberg and Bird said the community is largely divided now.

Cliques within majors, schools and residences keep it from developing a sense of cohesion, Bird said. Rainbow Alliance’s political reputation often keeps new members away too, she said. Those fault lines can make lobbying efforts, such as establishing the LGBT Center, difficult for the community.

“It can be harder to get large numbers of people to be vocal about an issue,” Bird said.

Reach Jordan Weissmann at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Week’s start colored by debate