marriage equality

Becoming the Guy Who Yells At the Small Town Newspaper

We won’t move to our new house in Winchester for another week—but I’ve already written my first grumpy message to the editor of the local flagship newspaper. Lord help me. I read my soon-to-be-hometown paper for the first time and, lo and behold, 4 of the 5 editorial pieces are slamming gay people. Are you kidding me?  If this isn’t a fluke, I predict I’ll be the offline version of “angry article comment writing guy” in no time.  Kyle will have to hide my quill and ink lest I send old-fashioned newspaper rants every day.get-off-my-lawn

Not until opening that editorial page did I realize how insulated I have been since high school (and coming out)–living in reliable, friendly places for social liberals–Champaign, Chicago, DC, Reston.  Winchester, VA is much more like my hometown of Bradley, IL…except with a slightly more conservative bite. I’m not complaining, local politics are much more fun when there is real disagreement. I’m looking forward to it.

I only write this post for two reasons: (1) To have a place to post this, because I’m sure the newspaper won’t touch it; (2) To remind those interested that we are nearing VERY important Supreme Court arguments that will decide the gay rights issue once and for all (April 28th). Fingers crossed.

Anyway, what I sent the honorable Adrian O’Connor, editorial chief of the venerable Winchester Star:

Is Winchester welcoming of all couples? On a recent editorial page (Friday, April 3rd), four of the five pieces directly or indirectly referenced same-sex couples as bullies, fanatical activists, or downright threats to society.

angryOne piece in particular (“For all the re-definition…) sought to warn the community of looming disaster if the United State Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings that would allow my fiance and I to marry. We are a gay couple and are exciting about moving to the area after buying a home in the Winchester Historic District. The editorial noted that our marriage would not be “normal” because our “chosen sexual behavior isn’t natural.” It went on to suggest that our marriage must be stopped for the sake of the children and grandchildren of Winchester. Really? I would assume, considering that the lives of children are apparently threatened if gay couples marry, that the author would much prefer if my fiance and I did not move into the area at all.  

The editorial argues that gay couples should not be given the right to marry because “the differences in motives, purposes, and practices that define homosexual and heterosexual unions are so great that the English language screams for definitive specificity.” By writing that sentence, I can only assume that the author does not actually know any gay couples.

To allay our future neighbors’ fears, we’d like to share the “motives, purposes, and practices that define our homosexual union.” We are getting married as a lifelong commitment…

  • To Provide one another with unerring emotional support during life’s inevitable challenges.
  • To Have a constant companion to share in life’s joys and triumphs.
  • To Build and care for a home, sprucing up our small corner of the world.
  • To Act as a strong unit to give back to our community in volunteer work, tax dollars, and participation in local organizations.
  • To Protect each of us individually from financial setbacks or career challenges.
  • To Blend our collective families, providing a larger net of trusted friends and confidants.  
  • To Challenge each other to grow beyond our own interests and explore new ideas, hobbies, and adventures.
  • To Push one another to pursue our real passions, regardless of our fears or worries
  • To Provide love, support, and care for a child who needs a safe and stable home.
  • To Ensure care, aid, and support to one another as we age, become disabled, and need to adapt in the twilight of life.
  • To Be a final smiling face one as we transition from this life to whatever lies beyond.

Sexual orientation has zero bearing on the motives, purposes, and practices of two individuals spending their lives together. Allowing my fiance and I to share in the benefits and obligations of marriage will not only benefit us personally, it will also make our new Winchester community stronger.

Let’s Do This Already; I’m Getting Exhausted

 Have you seen Abraham Lincoln/Illinois Outline/Marriage Equality pictures on Facebook recently? That’s because the Illinois General Assembly holds its first “veto session” next week: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday (Oct. 22-24).

That means we have yet another chance to finally allow same-sex couples to marry. You’ll likely be hearing a lot about this in the next few days. Here is a quick primer:

1) To pass in its current form, the bill needs 71 votes in the House. That is a high hurdle, because we could not even get 60 votes last May. However, the bill can be amended to change the start date (for next June) at which point it would only need 60 votes. We are VERY close to having those 60 votes.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

2) A few representatives are still undecided. The single most important thing you can do right now is send a personalized email/message/call to your representative. GO HERE to send a message or LOOK AT THIS POST for contact information.

*A special note for those in Kankakee, Bradley, and Bourbonnais. Democrat Kate Cloonen met with the local equal rights organization this Wednesday at Family House Restaurant (my favorite breakfast spot on the planet, so I took this personal). At the meeting she said that she does not believe gay people in Illinois should be able to marry. Please take a moment now to kindly ask her to re-consider. Voting to keep people unequal (in the Land of Lincoln, of all places) should be embarrassing.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/staterepresentativekate.cloonen
Email: staterepcloonen79@att.net

3) If you end up in polite discussion with opponents of equality this week (I hope so), here’s a quick Argument Cheat Sheet

  • Claim A: I do not support this, because I believe it attacks religious liberty. Christians should not be sued because they do not want to participate in these ceremonies.

–Religious liberty is important. That is why the bill does not force any church to perform services against their wishes. Also, the bill makes ZERO changes to discrimination laws in the state. A completely separate law governs non-discrimination rules in Illinois. In other words, passing this bill will not in any way impact the rights or obligations of any religious person or entity.

  • Claim B: I do not support this, because I believe all children deserve a mother and a father. 

–Great. But permitting a loving couple to get married in no way impacts the parentage of children.  Please do not use children as an excuse to perpetuate inequality.

  • Claim C: I do not support this, because gay couples already have civil unions; they just care about the word marriage. 

–Actually, gay couples in Illinois who have a civil union DO NOT receive federal marriage benefits (i.e. Social Security rights, estate tax breaks, +1,000 others). That is because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, but they do recognize marriage.

I Want Grandma to Be There

Six thousand Americans will die today.  Many will be seniors who suffer a stroke, end their battle with cancer, or drift away peacefully after a long decline.  Others are younger and will go suddenly–in a car accident or after slipping on a banana peel on the top of a subway stairwell.

My Grandma getting ready to destroy a pig pinata at her 70th Birthday.

My Grandma getting ready to destroy a pig pinata at her 70th Birthday.

Life is unpredictable.  Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last is a motto drilled into us–though we do a poor job absorbing it.

I thought about that this weekend while reading the graceful tributes to Mothers & Grandmothers everywhere.  Many expressed gratitude for those still around; others lit candles while remembering those gone.

All that outpouring of love made me think–as I do often–about marriage.

With three states passing marriage equality laws in two weeks, most assume that nationwide marriage equality is “just a matter of time.”  I agree.  But time matters.

Why?

Because six thousand people die every day.  Mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, wives, husbands…fiances…”partners.”

One of the most common excuses that wavering lawmakers squeak in opposition to equality is: Why are we talking about this now?  There are more important things to deal with.  We need to “create jobs;” gay marriage can wait.  There are a dozen issues that come first.

We are hearing this in Illinois right now, as certain members wiggle to convince themselves that there are logical reasons to oppose equality besides “some religious people in my district don’t like it.”  Obviously, this argument is a dodge.  Legislators always consider dozens of issues at once.

Much more importantly, however, the argument completely misses the reason why gay couples and the growing number of passionate allies are fighting for equality now: We don’t know how much time we have.

Every day people lose the chance to have their mother walk them down the aisle, be kissed on the cheek by their father, or have their grandmother sit in the front row, watch her grandchild say his vows, and consider how large her legacy has grown over the last fifty years.

In 1975, Richard Adams &  Tony Sullivan became the first gay coupe to seek a marriage license.  Richard died in December with Tony by his side after 43 years together.  They were never able to marry.

In 1975, Richard Adams & Tony Sullivan became the first gay coupe to seek a marriage license. Richard died in December with Tony by his side after 43 years together. They were never able to marry.

Shane, Tom

Shane & Tom were together for six years. They bought a house, started a business, and took care of their dog. Tom died in a freak accident two years ago. They were never able to marry.

Ed & Derence spent 40 year together.  They fought desperately to have the Prop 8 decision enforced immediately so that they could marry before Ed's Alzheimer's advanced.  Ed died last December.  They were never able to marry.

Ed & Derence spent 40 year together. They fought desperately to have the Prop 8 decision enforced immediately so that they could marry before Ed’s Alzheimer’s advanced. Ed died last December. They were never able to marry.

This Issue Is Different

Many other political issues are “more important” — Pension costs, tax rates, education reform, the healthcare system…

But make no mistake: They are different.

It wasn't about seating arrangements.

It wasn’t about seating arrangements.

We all have the same goal in mind with those issues: a better healthcare system, a better education system, more secure financial footing.  Even those who are political opposites have the same big-picture end-game–they just have vastly different ideas about how to get there.

Marriage equality is different.  The two sides do not have the same goal.  One side believes that gay couples should be treated the same as their straight counterparts.  The other side does not.

When Rosa Parks stood firm in 1955, the only issue at stake was a seat on a bus.  Seating arrangements in Montgomery were of little importance when we had communism to fight, tax rates to set, and education to fund, right?

Wrong.

The importance of political issues are dictated by the principles that underlie them.  The Civil Rights movement was important, but not because bus seating in Montgomery affected people more than avoiding nuclear holocaust with the Soviets.  Marriage equality is important, but not because allowing gay couples to marry affects more people than pension reform..or healthcare…or taxes.

This is how they made bacon "in the old days."  Hopefully we can re-create this at a family wedding soon.

This is how they made bacon “in the old days.” Hopefully we can re-create this at a family wedding soon.

In the United States, Equality is always important.  Very important.  Critical.

When citizens do not have equal protection under the law, we fix it. We don’t wait until everything else is perfect.  We don’t say that we will get to it after we pass an education bill or pension reform measure. We do it now.  Right now.  Because now is all we have for sure.

But also because everyone wants Grandma at their wedding.  Or the chance to have a wedding at all.

When I am finally able to get married…in five years…in a decade…in fifteen years…who won’t be there?  Will I even make it? I’m quite clumsy.

Nothing is more important than Now.

The vote may happen in the next week or two in Illinois. We may be only a single vote short.  Please take one moment to send a final message to your Illinois representative and remind them that delay is unacceptable.  Today is all we are guaranteed.  Equality cannot wait:  CONTACT INFORMATION HERE

Kate Cloonen – Vote for Love & Equality

Bradley and Bourbonnais residents…all eyes are on you this week.

Why?  Because our representative is planning to vote to deny equal rights to all her constituents.

Kate Cloonen is the IL House member who serves our corner of the state: Bradley, Bourbonnais, Kankakee, Grant Park, Aroma Park, Limestone, Herscher, Peotone, and others.

CloonenKate1Get This: Right now Rep. Cloonen, a Democrat, may vote to prevent her gay and lesbian constituents from marrying.  I am shocked and saddened that she is leaning this way.  Our area deserves better than a vote against fairness and love.

We are one step away from making marriage equality happen in Illinois.  That hurdle will take place in the next week or so, and it is literally going to come down to one or two votes.  It breaks my heart to think that our own Representative may be the deciding voice that tells gay couples yet again that they are not deserving of the same equality under the law as their friends and neighbors.

PLEASE take one moment to send Rep. Cloonen a Facebook message HERE OR send her an email (staterepcloonen79@att.net) OR call her office (815) 939-1983 OR all three. [Don’t forget…mention your address or that of relatives if you live in the area]

Injustice perpetuates when good people do nothing.  Please do not stay on the sidelines.  Kindly remind Rep. Cloonen that denying marriage rights to gay couples does not help a single person in our town, but it harms many.  Urge her to vote for love and equality.

You could share the words of a powerful editorial:

gay couple 3

“The question facing those reluctant Illinois lawmakers is not about their own personal beliefs on gay marriage. It is about their personal beliefs on discrimination. Which law-abiding groups do they purposely want to exclude under state law?

Any answer but “none” would be awful.”

Take a moment and send something now.  It will take only a second and could change everything.  We need you.  Please…

(1) Facebook message HERE

(2) Send her an email (staterepcloonen79@att.net)

(3) Call her office (815) 939-1983

[Don’t forget…mention your address or that of relatives if you live in the area]