Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Daniels writes for marriage equality

By Ellen Brait | November 8, 2012

President Ronald J. Daniels wrote an article in The Baltimore Sun on Nov. 1, proclaiming his support for Maryland Question 6, a same-sex marriage referendum question that appeared on the Maryland ballot in Tuesday’s election. The proposition passed on Tuesday night, legalizing gay marriage in the state. Maine and Washington also passed legislation instating marriage equality.

Daniels’ article was not aimed at any one group in particular, but instead was addressed to those who were torn on the issue and needed another reason to vote “yes” to Question 6.

“I was doing this in support of the many people who are championing this proposition and recognizing what a tremendously important moment it is for the equality cause in the state and indeed, I think, in the country,” Daniels said.

Sophomore Rachel Schnalzer, a member of the Hopkins College Democrats, believes that Daniels’ article had an impact on both Hopkins and Baltimore.

“Awareness is key, particularly for college-age students, and this article could be the reason that many students decide to vote,” she said.

Daniels is originally from Canada, the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. He believes that Canada’s decision was a likely influence on the urgency this issue now has in the United States.

“In a sense this is the moment. This has been a long slow march for equality, and this is the moment where we all must not falter,” Daniels said.

His wife, Joanne Rosen, is a human rights lawyer and dealt with various cases involving discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals while living in Canada. This gave Daniels an up close view of the situation.

“Seeing that the sky didn’t fall and that the country’s core institutions remained robust, for me, proved the reservations and anxiety that some people have with respect to the marriage equality amendment is not compelling,” Daniels said. “Canada has easily been able to accommodate and support equality for LGBT citizens.”

In his article, he made it clear from the start that he believed marriage equality was a basic human right.

“It’s a matter of core equality and respect for individuals,” he said to The News-Letter.

But he was aware that arguments based on justice and equality are made frequently and eloquently and with little change to some people's opinions, even though he regards them as the strongest arguments .

“There’s still a group of people that aren’t persuaded at this point by these arguments,” he said.

He decided to take a different approach and argued in favor of marriage equality from an economic standpoint and the good it would do for Hopkins. In his article, he put it quite simply, “Marriage equality is good for business.”

“Many people probably do not think about the effect that such a policy will have in the business realm, so I thought it was interesting to learn why this issue is beneficial for reasons other than basic fairness and equality,” junior Matt Stewart, President of the Hopkins College Democrats, said.

Daniels thought that, as head of the largest private employer in the state, he had credibility in structuring the argument the way he did. He argued that with marriage equality legalized in Maryland, Hopkins would be in a better position to recruit LGBT scholars, teachers, and researchers at the top of their fields.

He quoted past experience at the University of Pennsylvania, where that institution recruited many faculty from the University of Wisconsin after a vote to deny extended health care to same sex partners was enacted. It would even help to recruit straight employees, he argued, as many people would prefer working in a state where everyone has the same basic rights.

For his actions, he has received both praise and criticism. However, he believes that the majority of people have been supportive and appreciative. Schnalzer and Stewart both expressed pride in having a University president who was so publicly supportive of a controversial issue.

“My immediate reaction to President Daniels’ Sun article was how great it is to have a University President in support of marriage equality,” Stewart said.

“There have been a few high fives when I’ve been on the campus,” Daniels said.

Hopkins College Republicans declined as a group to comment on the issue.

Hopkins itself is a very accepting environment, Daniels argued -- perhaps one of the most welcoming schools at this time.

“I think that Hopkins has been at the very forefront of institutions who are providing just and appropriate support for LGBT citizens and making sure that we are not discriminating on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Daniels said.

Although he does not claim to know all of the activities on campus, he has had discussions with students in casual settings on LGBT issues and solicited their thoughts on them. He believes there is a core group of students who are especially invested in the issue and are working to make progress on it.

“I’m enjoying working to support their interests,” Daniels said.

Groups on campus that work closely with LGBT students, like the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance (DSAGA) are very appreciative of Daniels’ public declaration. They also recognize that he has worked to help LGBT efforts in the past.

“It’s different to say you are in support of something. It’s something completely else to broadcast it in a national newspaper. I thought that was really touching,” junior Erika Rodriguez, co-president of DSAGA, said.

On the day of the election, during his interview with The News-Letter, Daniels expressed his hopes that Question 6 would pass and expressed his frustration that he, as a Canadian citizen, could not vote. He explained that any chance he got, he urged people to vote because of the important issues at stake. He emphasized that it didn’t matter to him who they decided to vote for, just that they got out and made their opinions known.

“I’m really hopeful … that Maryland will be one of the first, if not the first, state to adopt marriage equality by way of popular vote,” Daniels said.


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