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Why Marriage Equality Matters III

May 8, 2009

The week after Maine held public hearings on LD 1020, I wrote the piece below.  I was told that because I do not currently live in Maine, it would not be considered for publication in a Maine newspaper.  I understand that there were lots of voices from within Maine trying to be heard and appreciate that newspapers prioritized people who live in Maine when allocating space on their op-ed page.  However, I hope that people do realize that marriage equality in Maine reaches far beyond the borders.  This piece may be a bit late now, but I figured I’d post it so the energy I put into it didn’t go to waste.

April 24, 2009

One of the thousands of Mainers who showed up at last week’s marriage equality hearings was my mother.  She arrived at 6:50am wearing red to support me, her gay son.

In an email after the hearings, she wrote, “To sit and listen to the ugly statements that the opponents were making tore me apart.  I wanted to scream, ‘This is my child you are talking about – don’t do that.’  What does this do to my child and others to hear this?  If it is so painful to me, what does it do to the gay person?”

Unfortunately, there is nothing that opponents of LD 1020 said that I haven’t heard before.  Their comments may have offended me, but I have learned to move past them.

Four years ago, at 20 years old, I was finally able to tell my family and friends that I am gay. I knew deep down that my family would accept me and know that I am the same son, brother, cousin, and grandson they’ve always known.  Unlike many gay men and women, I was treated no differently once I told my family and friends.

While I can move past the pain from these comments, my mother is right to react so strongly.  We should all condemn those discriminatory words—not for me—but for everyone that hears them.  For the young adults who feel the way I did four years ago: afraid and alone.

There is nothing worse than feeling that alone.  Feeling that, despite being like your friends and family in almost every way, there is one thing that makes you so different that you fear acknowledging it to even yourself.  Marriage equality won’t make someone gay, but it will make acknowledging it easier.

This is why my concern is not for the man or woman who has summoned the courage to say, “I’m gay.”  My concern is for the teenager who cannot yet say those words.  For the teenager who hears people stand and declare that, despite God’s love of mankind, he opposes the love that two of those people find together.

I remember what it felt like to hear someone rail against homosexuality, not knowing that I am gay.  Some would have been mortified if they knew how they made me feel.  Others would have said my feelings were a rightful shame.  Whatever they believe, I can tell you this: before I came out, I felt worthless when I heard those words.  Today, I do not.

Today, I feel pity.  I pity the narrow-minded that can’t appreciate what I have to offer.  But more than pitying the person who will never benefit by learning from their gay brothers and sisters, I pity the people who hear their hate.  I feel terrible that I can’t reach out and tell every closeted teen and adult that, despite what they hear from some, I have encountered enormous love and support from my family, friends, and strangers, and they can find the same.

When I listened to last week’s hearings, I heard incredible stories of survival, love, resilience, and compassion that often go unheard.

Ministers who want to recognize the love of two gay people.

The World War II veteran who fought for our freedoms and stands up because his son is denied full rights.

The interracial couple who stand and says that they faced this same discrimination 40 years ago based on race.

The 9-year-old child who, through sobs, says it breaks her heart that her godmother can’t marry.

The 8th grader who eloquently stands up for his two mothers.

And the gay couple who—despite the illness that afflicts one of them—stands to demand their rights before it is too late.

The hearings in Augusta showed me the best of Maine.  I saw compassion rise above the refrain of dogmatic narrow-mindedness, and more importantly I saw a cross section of Maine stand up for equality.

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