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MICA, ACLU of Maryland Present Constitution Day Symposium: Marriage as a Civil Right

Free Sept. 19 Symposium Features Syndicated Columnist Dan Savage and Artist Sharon Hayes

Posted 08.18.10 by MICA Communications

Constitution Day celebrates the freedom of expression in which artists and designers thrive. 

Constitution Day: Marriage as a Civil Right

BALTIMORE--This Constitution Day, MICA and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD) will delve into the hot topic of marriage equality for same-sex couples, on Sunday, Sept. 19, 3-5 p.m., at the Brown Center's Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave. The free symposium, entitled Marriage as a Civil Right, features a panel of experts, advocates and artists who will bring forward different viewpoints and look at what the future holds for marriage equality, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in general.


VIDEO: If you missed the event, watch the entire symposium on MICA's YouTube channel.
VIEW: Facebook photos from the event.

The panel, moderated by WYPR's The Signal producer Aaron Henkin, includes internationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage; Baltimore-born and nationally acclaimed performance artist Sharon Hayes; and Dr. Kendall Thomas, a law professor at Columbia University who writes and lectures on constitutional law, civil rights, race and sexuality.

Constitution Day panelists (l-r): Aaron Henkin, Dan Savage, Sharon Hayes, Dr. Kendall Thomas

"Constitution Day celebrates the freedom of expression in which artists and designers thrive," MICA spokesman Cedric Mobley said. "We are happy to provide a venue for the discussion of all points of view on important topics affecting society."

Firmin DeBrabander, Constitution Day organizer and chair of the Humanistic Studies Department at MICA, said he chose this topic because of its current relevancy in Maryland. In February, Attorney General Doug Gansler issued a legal opinion saying that state law recognizes valid out-of-state same-sex marriages. In late spring, the state government made clear that lesbian and gay state employees with valid out-of-state marriages automatically qualified for employment benefits already granted to domestic partners.

ACLU-MD believes this recent progress reinforces that it is time for Maryland to discuss the full protection of civil marriage for all Maryland families. "The ACLU of Maryland believes the time is now to realize the promise of full marriage equality and to educate about why it is so vital to the security, stability, dignity and peace of mind of same-sex couples and their families," said Susan Goering, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland. "That's why the ACLU is once again thrilled to partner with MICA to host another timely installment of our Constitution Day event, which each year engages hundreds of students, who are the future of our democracy."

Art has long been a method of expression, and artists throughout history have been instigators of change, engaging society in conversation of pressing issues. ACLU-MD will be on site at the symposium, educating attendees about their rights to equal protection and fairness under the law, and inspiring them to take leadership roles in advancing LGBT rights for the future.

Established in 2005, this annual event recognizes the ratification of the United States Constitution and continues MICA's tradition of leadership in raising and engaging in important issues surrounding people's freedoms.


  • Students, faculty and staff should contact the events office at events@mica.edu to reserve seats prior to the event.
  • General admission tickets will be distributed beginning at noon the day of the event. It is first-come, first-seated.

Photo captions: Constitution Day panelists (left-right) are WYPR producer and host Aaron Henkin, syndicated columnist Dan Savage, renowned performance artist Sharon Hayes, and civil law professor and expert Dr. Kendall Thomas.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.

Constitution Day panelists:

Dan Savage has been writing Savage Love, an internationally syndicated weekly sex and relationship advice column, for nearly 20 years. The openly gay author uses the column as a forum for his strong opinions that reject conservative views on love, sex and family. He is the author of four books, including his latest about modern-day marriage, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family.  

Sharon Hayes, through her artistic performances, films and installations, examines the intersection of history, politics and speech, with a particular focus on the language of 20th-century protest groups. Her work is concerned with developing representational strategies that examine and interrogate the present political moment. To this aim, she employs conceptual and methodological approaches borrowed from artistic and academic practices, such as theater, film, anthropology, linguistics and journalism. Hayes' work has been shown internationally, including most recently in the 2010 Whitney Biennial.

Dr. Kendall Thomas is the Nash Professor of Law and co-founder and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia Law School in New York City, where his teaching and research interests include constitutional law, human rights, legal philosophy, Critical Race Theory, law and sexuality. Thomas is a founding member of the Majority Action Caucus of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power; Sex Panic!; and the AIDS Prevention Action League; and is a former vice-chair of the board of directors at Gay Men's Health Crisis.

Moderator Aaron Henkin is a co-creator and producer of WYPR's radio arts program, The Signal, and host of Stories from the Stoop. His news reports and features have aired nationally on programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day and PRI's The World. Henkin is also the curator and host of a weekly podcast called The NPR Station Showcase with PRX, where he highlights outstanding stories from fellow producers at public radio stations around the country.