Student LGBT leader proud to be part of historic moment
Jennifer Geiman isn’t quite ready for marriage yet, but she’s happy to know it’s an option.
Geiman, a senior in applied psychology, spoke in front of 2,300 spectators at the UIC Forum today — and many more online — as Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois.
“The bill is huge for me personally,” said Geiman, president of UIC Pride, an LGBT student organization.
“I felt very honored to be invited to speak at the event.”
Geiman has been in a relationship with her partner, Ann Foster, for three years. Foster, stationed in San Diego with the U.S. Navy, will be deployed next summer but the couple plans to discuss marriage when she returns, Geiman said.
“We weren’t sure how it would work out when one of us got around to proposing. But it means that now I know I’ll be able to propose to her, and I can marry the person I love, in the city that I love,” Geiman said.
Members of UIC Pride, as well as others in the UIC community, played a role in the bill’s success by contacting legislators and marching in Springfield last month to push for marriage equality, Geiman said.
For many students, the new law is a relief because it promises a future of equal access to marriage, Geiman said.
“People were really trying to make this happen, which is so beneficial for the queer community,” she said.
The signing of the bill marks a historic moment for members of UIC’s LGBT community, said Megan Carney, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center.
“It’s really incredible to see this kind of policy change taking place,” she said. “There are people who have been in relationships for decades with the same partner — and suddenly, marriage is a realistic option.
“A lot of people who identify in the community are saying, ‘Well, I’m not necessarily going to get married, yet having that option just really changes the landscape for all of us.’”
The fact that UIC was the backdrop for the historic moment highlights the campus commitment to diversity, Carney said.
“We really want to open our doors to diverse communities,” she said. “We are welcoming the LGBT community to campus, so it’s important to us that they really see us as a hub where people can come together.”
Wednesday also marked the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, acknowledging members of the LGBT community who died as a result of violence. The date’s significance shows there’s still more work to be done in the LGBT community, Carney said.
“A lot of people who are celebrating this moment are also hoping that the passage of this bill will do a lot more to destigmatize LGBT folks across the board,” she said.