In the wake of President Obama’s landmark announcement of his support for same-sex marriage, the Review sat down with the co-presidents of the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS), the conservative and often-controversial student group centered around traditional marriage values, to catch up on the group’s success and direction in their second year on campus.In an interview, the society’s sophomore co-presidents Judy Romea ’14 and Ben VanBerkum ’14 expressed positivity in the face of widespread opposition on campus, which they believe is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the SAS’s agenda.
“If you’re going to emphasize this in your article, emphasize: we are not anti-gay people,” said Romea, who was careful to set rumors straight regarding the mission of her organization, which took massive heat for its inaugural event late last academic year, a talk entitled “Marriage Without Adjectives” by Jennifer Roback Morse, a former Hoover Fellow. The event was ridiculed for its apparently homophobic and anti-female sentiments.
So, when offered a chance to set the record straight, the SAS co-leaders had much to say with regard to what the group does advocate rather than what they oppose, also expressing that they believe the public’s attention to what is perceived to be the group’s homophobia puts a bad name on a positively oriented organization. Communication, they say, is the focus of the group.
“People don’t really want to truly live the way everybody expects college students should live, you know, and here is a group that will try and talk about it, and that’s why we’re important,” said Romea, emphasizing that, while much of the press’s focus remains on the controversial nature of their inaugural event, the SAS’s events are communication-oriented.
On May 17, the society joint-hosted the first annual Pro-Life and Pro-Family Reception with the Stanford Students for Life. About 40 people attended the event, which featured hors d’oeuvres and a talk by Sherif Girgis, a Rhodes Scholar who is pursuing higher degrees at two different Ivy League institutions.
Earlier in the year, the SAS hosted Stanford graduate Charlie Capps, who spoke regarding his scholarly work in the field of social psychology, especially with regard to marriage’s role in societal success. The talk was mainly focused on “how to have a conversation with another Stanford student” regarding issues of family values.
Having hosted two successful and constructive events this year, Romea and VanBerkum expressed positivity for the future. When asked whether the group is operating on its desired level or whether large-scale growth remains necessary, the two restated their emphasis on communication as the main role of the SAS.
“There are a lot of people… more than the people who show up at our meetings, who agree with us,” said VanBerkum. “[If] people can see that, then our job is being done.”
Still, the SAS walks a fine line. While Judy and Ben have high hopes for a future of student communication on the Farm, their calculatedly philosophical approach to the issue of same-sex marriage has the potential to create enemies all across campus.
“We define the family as a man and a woman and their kids, united through marriage,” said VanBerkum.
Traditional marriage values, which include “prudence and fidelity” along with a heterosexual partnership, serve as the foundation for a successful marriage, in the eyes of the SAS. In turn, families provide the “fundamental building blocks of society.”
Functional society’s dependence on successful family units is a measured fact of social psychology, according to VanBerkum, who spoke highly of Capps’s explanation of that fact during his speech at Stanford.
“There are things that are shown to be better for the raising of children,” he said, which include the raising of children by their committed, biological parents.
With regard to same-sex adoption, Romea said that the SAS “lumps it together more with single parent adoption,” a situation which they believe should be avoided when willing heterosexual couples are available to raise children in need of parents.
Additionally, the two commented on the gray area that results when traditional marriage values are questioned. If the definition of marriage is reduced to two caring partners who live together for a common good, Romea suggested, then two college roommates could fulfill marital obligations.
As Americans continue to call the definition of marriage into question, so too may change the definition of “anti-gay.” To a growing group of Americans, the restriction of marriage to anyone based on orientation may already fall under that umbrella. For now, though, the SAS is a budding campus organization with an emphasis on communication and “the dignity of the human being.”