- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

RICHMOND — The woman who confronted Virginia Tech student Leslie Crews over her views of homosexual “marriage” didn’t say a word. Instead, she snatched a Students 4 Marriage sticker from the information booth Miss Crews had set up, crumpled it and threw it at her.

“I just said, ‘Have a nice day,’” recalled Miss Crews, who acknowledged that she was shaken by the incident a few weeks ago on the school’s Blacksburg campus.

College campuses are the latest battleground for the divisive debate over same-sex “marriage” in the state, as leaders on both sides of the issue tap young voters whom they hope will become supporters this fall and beyond. Virginia had more than 400,000 registered voters ages 18 to 25 last year, according to the State Board of Elections.

From the University of Virginia to the College of William & Mary, students are organizing protests and panel discussions on the amendment that would limit marriage to one man and one woman, guided by coalitions that see Virginia’s youngest voters as the future.

In the past month, amendment opponents have staged a forum at Radford University, campaigned dorm to dorm at the University of Richmond, and sponsored a series of rallies at U.Va., including an Oct. 6 speech by Candace Gingrich, half-sister of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican.

Student supporters of the amendment are organizing their own panels and debates. Students 4 Marriage protested an anti-amendment rally at George Mason University earlier this month and have planned literature drops at schools where they have chapters, among them Regent University, the Virginia Beach college founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Elizabeth Prescott and other students are paying special attention to the heightening debate. The junior at George Mason recently visited Richmond for a student debate at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“It’s important to everyone, but especially young people,” Miss Prescott said.

In students, conservative leaders see passionate young voters who could support traditional causes for years to come, said Victoria Cobb, head of the Family Foundation, supporters of the amendment.

“Getting them involved is critical because it will set the stage for what they’ll be doing in terms of voting for the rest of their lives,” she said.

The Richmond-based group has helped organize 20 chapters of Students 4 Marriage, the conservative answer to an assortment of student groups working against the amendment on Virginia campuses during the critical last weeks leading up to the Nov. 7 referendum.

Statewide, homosexual “marriage” supporters are trying to convince a largely traditional voter base. At colleges, conservatives face an uphill struggle.

They are preaching traditional values to students often influenced by MTV, not the Republican Party.

Their battle is reflected in their numbers: While an estimated 650 students attended an Oct. 5 rally against the amendment at George Mason, only 30 came to a counterprotest senior Ryan Gleason organized.

Mr. Gleason, head of Students 4 Marriage at the Fairfax campus, has struggled to gain members. Students fear coming out as conservative will lose them cool points or, worse, brand them homophobic, he said.

Students at Virginia Tech tried to create a conservative safe zone where like-minded students could meet and find support. They posted fliers bearing red, white and blue triangles — a play on the pink triangle symbol of the homosexual rights movement.

“They got ripped down immediately,” Miss Crews said.

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