drew a crowd of close to 160 people at the Chabot Room, where six locals
Billy Bradford, a gay Castro Valley resident and activist for Marriage Equality USA and GetEQUAL, argued on the panel in favor of same-sex marriage which included Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring of and Kaiser pediatrician Dr. Irene Landaw.
Castro Valley residents Stacy Spink, Peter Hauer and Trinity Bustria argued against same-sex marriage rights.
Trinity brought religion into the mix by bringing readings out of the Bible to define marriage as being between a man and woman.
Hauer, a retired lawyer said the motive of gay marriage is to boost acceptance of homosexuality, not to gain federal benefits. He added that gay marriage would lead to social problems and cited several “failed experiments” by society in the past such as granting welfare to single mothers in the 1960s.
Spink spoke about genetics and how maternal stress determines homosexuality according to studies he found.
On the “pro” side of the gay-marriage debate, all three panelists argued that they would not rest until full federal equality for same-sex marriage is met. Bradford argued that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay.
“I got 99 problems but being gay isn’t one,” he said, which drew laughs and cheers from the crowd, a majority of which seemed to support his side.
He shared two interracial marriage cases that made it to the Supreme Court in which the judges claimed the freedom to marry was “a fundamental right.”
Hauer responded during his concluding arguments that “being gay is not the new black.”
Practicing faith leader Nehring said she recognizes same-sex marriage as both a “civil right and religious rite.” She said that 20 percent of members at her church are gay, all of which are part of her church’s open and affirming movement.
“I think it’s an issue of basic fairness, justice and compassion,” Landaw argued. “That makes it a moral issue.”
She gave her medical perspective on the biological argument debated by Spink saying it was much more complex than he makes it out to be. According to studies found and shared by Landaw, homosexuality is determined in the first trimester of pregnancy and not controlled by the fetus or mother.
“[Homosexuality is] the only biological trait that’s not allowed to get married.
Although, it is not a common trait, it is not considered a mutation, disease or disorder, she added. She said more than 400,000 doctors and health care providers stand by these claims.
Questions were asked among the 160-member audience to both sides of the panel.
The debate came about after several months of back-and-forth interactions through "letters to the editor" submissions to the Castro Valley Forum according to Bradford.
Bay City News contributed to this report.