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Sunday, July 15, 2012

make it so

"Love is a human experience, not a political statement."   -Anne Hathaway

You know the little subject that you keep hearing about? The one that polarizes individuals, churches, families, politicians and states?

Gay marriage. 

Conservative or liberal, young or old, fat or thin, single or married, rich or poor, church go-er or not, vegetarian or meat-eater...if you live in the state of Maine you get to vote on this issue in 18 weeks. 

I'm not sure I said that clearly enough. 

In a mere 18 weeks you get to decide for me and my family.  You get to cast your opinion on our love and commitment.  You have the power to determine if our girls get to know equality for their family.

Does this make you sweat?  It does me.  That is a lot of power to have over someone else's life.  Over OUR lives.

How would you like it if it was up to the voting public, the majority, to decide if you had the right to your job, your housing, your children and your love?  These are all rights that we have fought for in the past many years.  In Maine, after two failed attempts on the ballot, non-discrimination for gay people was written into law in 2005.  Anti-gay groups got it put on the ballot as a people's veto to take away our "special" rights but it was upheld and we got to keep our civil rights to be treated like anyone else.  In 2008, through the court system, it became legal for us to adopt our own children.  (Thank goodness that was not left up to the public or we wouldn't be proudly displaying our girls' adoption certificates on our walls.) 

That just leaves marriage.   And Maine is rather fickle when it comes to gay marriage. 

To me, the arguments against gay marriage are like a bucket full of holes trying to hold water.  They are so flawed they are impotent in their power to convince.  Except that they are powerfully, frighteningly convincing to many.  The notion that gay marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage is so curious to me considering the current divorce and infidelity rate.  The argument that marriage is a sacred, religious institution is not even factually accurate given that marriage originated as a way to secure property, family dynasties and lines of inheritance.  Sure, people got married in churches but marriages themselves were a civil matter, not a scared one.  Until very recent history, and even still in some parts of the world, love was not a prerequisite to marriage. 

But, truly the most frustrating tactic of all is the one brought by the religious angle that homosexuality is an abomination because the bible says so.  This often thrown about quote comes from Leviticus in the old testament where it also says that eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics, eating or touching pig carcass (football anyone?), cutting your hair or your beard are abominations. You know what else is?  Divorce.

I hope all those divorced, bacon and lobster eating folks who are sitting in their chairs in their polyblends watching football will not be hypocrites when they cast their vote in November.

I'm guessing I'm preaching to the choir here but I kind of can't help myself.  With all the talk from both sides, I want to listen patiently and not have a knee-jerk emotional reaction when I hear people say, "I just don't think we should call it marriage" but I get kind of pissy when the voting public has this much say in my life.  I guess I should be glad that so many people are saying, "I think they should have the rights of marriage but let's call it something else" since this is a FAR cry from where we were 8 or 10 years ago, yet I tire of it nevertheless.

For us, it is all about equality.  If you give us marriage and call it something else then we are not equal.

As Robert Owen said: "It is a very simple issue.  You either believe in human rights or you don't." 

You can imagine just how much we appreciate that so many straight allies have joined the fight.  Sandi's family to be exact.  Her Aunt Suzie, Uncle Buck and their son Noah from Beals Island are sweeping their conservative Downeast Maine community with their passion for marriage equality.  I can tell you that it is only about 100 times more effective to have straight people saying, "hey, it's time we did the right thing and granted equal rights" than just having us shouting, "hey, we deserve some rights." The majority speaks louder than the minority every time. 

I really and truly can't express the outpouring of love from these, and others, in Sandi's family.  It is wonderful, astounding, touching.  We traveled to Jonesport-Beals the first day of our vacation to participate in the first of the Fourth of July parades and I felt like it was a holiday in our honor.  I never, EVER thought I would see rainbow colors flying in this small island town.

Sandi, her dad and the girls ready for the parade:

 Uncle Buck, Aunt Suzie and their extraordinary prodigy of a child (who also happens to be blind), Noah, in front of the float they built.  Uncle Buck built these cabinets to hold the TVs (four in all) and the video Sandi made. 

Uncle Buck, Me, Sandi and Aunt Suzie
It is hard to describe what marching in this event means in this small community. This is a place where people are fiercely loyal, astonishingly opionated and not known for their open mindedness. Once they are on your side, they will stay by you forever, but if you represent an unknown you will not be in the fold. If you are embraced, you are done so physically with hugs and affection and you receive the typical teasing of Downeast humor that lets you know you are family.

She doesn't like to talk about it too much, but Sandi is a bit of a hometown sweetheart and there couldn't be a better person to make people question their preconceived notions about something like gay marriage. Her family is not one for the spotlight and yet they marched alongside us with rainbow colors and overwhelming pride and support. Sure a few people gave a thumbs down or turned their back or even just looked at us stoically, but many, many people gave cheers of agreement and encouragement. 

And I am convinced that the float was received 100 times better being put on by local people, known and respected in the community, than a group from "away" coming in and trying to change the minds of these strong natured Mainers.

Sandi's sister, Kristi, with her daughter Makenna

Sandi and I

Kristi, with her kiddos Brevan and Makenna, the four of us, Aunt Suzie, Uncle Buck and Noah and Sandi's dad, Dwight.  (Sandi's mom and her other sister, Tricia, were out of town.)

Beth, who is doing a kick-ass job working for Equality Maine and having many of those difficult yet persuasive one-on-one conversations with people all over the state about marriage equality, with her partner Val and their daughter Oakley:

Kelly and Tracey and their son, Kane

The kids, decked out in rainbow and ready to throw some candy.

Sandi's grandparents, who are in their 80's, came to support the cause


Katie, whose cheeks hurt from smiling (mine too)

Music blaring, voices cheering, flags waving we were a colorful sight to behold.

proud dog
Sandi, waving the flag proudly:

A few days later, on the Fourth of July itself, we headed to Eastport, a town right on the boarder of Canada, for their parade.  With thousands of spectators, this was by far our most successful parade with people cheering and even crying on the sides of the street.  From there we made a run for it to get to the Machias parade a few hours later.  This meant we had to decorate and dismantle the "pridemobile" as Aunt Suzie dubbed it, twice.  No small feat, but many hands made light work. 

One of the highlights of our day happened first thing as we were waiting in the Eastport parade line-up.  We were second to last since we had gotten there late and so we met the front of the parade as they circled back around to the beginning.  (It is a LONG parade.)  This group of cheering teenage girls hopped down from the fire truck they had been riding and asked if they could march with us.  We gave them leis and flags and they started the parade all over again just to show their support.  And they weren't the only ones.  We figured in Eastport alone we picked up about 15 supporters.  In conservative, downeast Maine.  That is SO cool.

LOVE this picture of Sandi's dad:

Me and my own personal fashionista.

Indeed it is.

Katie, Alex and me showing our muscles.
Is this not the most beautiful picture of Sandi and Noah?

Sandi, flanked by her bright orange marriage equality t-shirt wearing parents. 

A good picture of the float with the adorable candy throwers in the back.

Katie and Alex

Beautiful sisters

This picture of Sandi's dad, Dwight, says it all. Here he is with us in Machias holding back tears.

At the end of the day, we really do it for these two:

Here's to hoping that we have a bunch of Macy's gift cards to buy for all the weddings we will be attending come November. 

A massive thank you and lots of love to all who marched, cheered, put money and time into this endeavor.  The energy and passion of it, the celebration of love, was one of the highlights of my year. 

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about relationships: "To be fully seen by someone, then, and be loved anyhow-this is a human offering that borders on miraculous."

How right she is. Love and commitment is a whole lot like a miracle when you think about it.  In this giant world to find one person who can put up with you and your wonders and flaws, and yours with theirs, day in and day out...this is a celebration.  And maybe not one that requires the focus on white tulle dresses, the perfect arrangement of roses and the decision between surf or turf. 

 To me marriage has nothing to do with the ideal wedding and everything to do with loving someone who leaves toothpaste smudges on the bathroom sink and forgets not to put your delicates in the dryer.  Marriage is acknowledging that life won't always be easy and some days anger and hurt may be stronger than our feelings of love but we are in this together and we will work out whatever comes our way.  Marriage is showing someone all the parts of you, even the ones you yourself are afraid of.  It is a safe harbor, a sanctuary, a lighthouse in a storm.  Longevity comes by holding hands and jumping into the fire and expecting to get burned sometimes but knowing the other will put salve on your wounds, even if her or she was the one who burned you.  Marriage is the beautiful, the ugly, the proud, the forgiven, the beloved, the challenging and the wonderous. 

This is what we have built after 11 1/2 years.  It is marriage in every way.  I cannot for the life of me understand how it could be a threat to anyone else.  We will have this regardless of the vote in November since we do not need society to validate our love. 

But living in a world where we are equal would sure be nice.

As Aunt Suzie says, "Make it so." Please vote.  Please talk to people you know who might be unsure.  Tell them our story. Show them our picture.  We are counting on you.


jul said...

I have very fond memories of living in Beals/Jonesport even if I was from the outside. Loved seeing all the pictures and reading your beautiful words. You have described marriage far better than I have ever heard in a church. Good luck! I'm Canadian so I can't help vote but I would if I could!

AKJenn said...

That was beautiful! This is one straight central Mainer voting for equality! It is long past time!

Anonymous said...

This was a beautiful post....I have forwarded your link to others. Thanks for writing this.

Katie said...

This is the best thing I've read in a long, long time. Thanks for writing it. xoxo, K

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