A Response to Former DukeCR Chair’s Statement Regarding the 12/12 Chronicle Column

Former Duke College Republicans Chair William Reach issued a response to the column that I wrote, published in the Chronicle today.

The Chronicle does not allow its columnists to comment in the online discussion board.

With this in mind, I want to directly address some of his allegations head on, and feel that the blog is the most appropriate venue in which to do so.

(1) Will and I discussed writing a joint statement about civil unions, but did not want to write a head-to-head column because, although we have some disagreeemt about issues surrounding marraige equality, we had enough common ground to coauthor a statement.  In our prospectus to the Duke Chronicle, we said that we wished to do a joint column on the issue of civil unions.  This is the text of what we submitted in our prospectus to the Duke Chronicle on June 22, 2011:

Why Duke Dems and DCR agrees about civil union.  What if “marriage equality” meant getting rid of the legal recognition of marriage altogether, and instead, recognizing a “civil union” for adults of any gender who wish to have their partnership recognized before the law.  How our groups have reached an overlapping consensus about this solution as a way of protecting the freedom of religion and preventing the government intrusion into religious life, of making sure that all adults are treated equally, and while providing adults more autonomy of their lives and decisions

(2) The Duke Chronicle said it would be impossible due to formatting to convert our side-by-side column to a joint column on a one-time basis.  The week that the marriage amendment was being voted on (in September of 2011), Will Reach and I spoke by phone about the vote.  I suggested that we issue a joint statement as a press release, offering to draft it and have him approve or make edits.   He rejected this offer and took the possibility of a co-authored Duke Democrats & Duke College Republicans statement off the table in the future.

(3) If Duke College Republicans wants to cooperate with Blue Devils United, they are eagerly encouraged to join the Duke Coalition for an Inclusive NC to fight the marriage amendment, which meets on Fridays (we have suspended meetings for winter break until January).  This invitation is open to them as individuals or as a group.  I continue to believe that the best way to “heal the wounds” of the Justin Robinette scandal is for Duke College Republicans to indicate that they are committed to equality between individuals of different sexual orientations.  I don’t think that it’s possible for someone to be committed to equality between individuals of sexual orientations to support an amendment that legally prohibits civil unions and domestic partnerships.  I am aware the Will Reach met with the President of Blue Devils United in the spring semester of 2011, but what has their group done (as a whole group, or as individuals) to follow up on this conversation and to work with BDU to affirm the equality of LGBT individuals?

(4) I continue to be interested in respectful dialogue on political issues.  I also continue to eagerly hope that members of Duke College Republicans, as a whole organization, or as individuals, will indicate the degree of respect they hold towards their LGBT classmates, and take a principled stand on an amendment that would assert that homosexual relationship and heterosexual relationships are structurally unequal.

(5) I continue to believe  that, in the words of Elie Wiesel, “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”   DukeCR members have failed as an organization to protest the amendment so far.  Their leaders (officers) have also failed to publicly protest the amendment.  I hoped that the column would place pressure on Republicans who acknowledge how deeply problematic the amendment is to speak out.  Republican State Senator Jim Davis is a great example of a Republican who bravely spoke out, saying:

 I have a lot of libertarian in me. I believe firmly, passionately that a marriage should be defined as being between one man and one woman. But I also believe with all my heart that in a free America people who choose to live a different lifestyle should have a legal right to do so. Just don’t call it marriage. [This amendment will] restrict their freedoms a little more beyond my comfort zone.

I don’t wish to demonize Duke College Republicans for not having spoken out to date, but I do wish to say, clearly: the campus community watching you, and waiting for you to speak out.

Republicans leveling with other conservatives about the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, and the many ways in which it violates conservative principles, is something that has a real shot of defeating the amendment and keeping our state one that is welcoming and inclusive towards LGBT individuals.

(6) I recognize that Duke College Republicans are a diverse group, not all of whom agree on specific or on broad issues.  If this precludes an official organization statement, I stand by what I wrote in my column: To the members of Duke CR, as a group, or as individuals, if you cannot reach a consensus: join the Duke Coalition for an Inclusive N.C., or admit to your fellow LGBT students to their faces that you reject their love.

(7) In 100 years, hopefully sooner, I think our state will look back on the fight about the NC Marriage Discrimination Amendment with the sadness and anger that we currently think about the laws that once prevented African-Americans from marrying Whites in our state.  I firmly believe that we will look back on this issue as something that was wrong, wrong in the most absolute and simple terms.  This is an issue that gets to the deepest core of morality: justice, inclusion, fairness, and respect for the dignity for other human beings.   I know many   conservatives and self-identified Republicans at Duke agree with me on this issue, but for one reason or another, refrain from making their views known.  It is important that we continue to place pressure on our peers not to be silent and complicit in the face of injustice.  I think the current group Duke CRs are guilty of only one thing–silence on the Marriage Discrimination Amendment.  Silence has profound consequences–but it is resolved easily by speaking out.  At the point in which members of DukeCR, as individuals or as an organization speak out about the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, their fellow Duke students and North Carolinians will congratulate them for their courage, thank them for their support, and enthusiastically welcome into a coalition dedicated to keeping discrimination out our constitution.  


[Edit 12/12 5:44pm: I spoke to Meredith Jewitt, Editor of the Editorial Pages of the Chronicle to double-check that I was not allowed to respond to Reach’s comment in the comments section of the Chronicle.  She affirmed that, and noted that Reach is also not allowed to comment.  Reach’s comment will be taken down by Chronicle moderators, so if you check online to look for it and don’t see it, this is the reason why]

Published by Elena Botella

Elena Botella is a Duke Undergraduate in the Class of 2013, majoring in Economics and Math.

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