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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

perhaps it's time to take a shift in the closet

Sandi and I have been casually discussing potential wedding plans.  A dangerous thing to do when your right to hold such an event (one with any actual legal weight) depends on a popular vote in less than 5 weeks. 

I wish this election would just hurry up and get done.  The playful summer of parades, cheering for equality and throwing candy feels long past us.  A line has been drawn in the sand and you're either on our side or you're against us. 

I know I shouldn't be so black and white, but I can't really help it.  If you live in Maine and are over the age of 18, you are either going to support us or castigate us at the polls on November 6 when you cast your vote on question one.  For me it is as simple as that. 

Yes on one means you think our family deserves the same rights as yours.   No on one means you don't.  Bottom line.  No matter what lies the Protect Marriage people publish on their website, we do not currently have the same legal rights as married couples.

Our slightly (mostly?) conservative town has had such a startling amount of "Yes on 1" signs all over that I knew it was only a matter of time before the "No on 1" signs began to appear.  Yesterday I drove to Beals Island and Route 1 was littered with "Yes on 1" signs thanks to Aunt Suzie, Uncle Buck and Noah going out in the driving rain Sunday to put them up.  (I can't thank you enough family for all you have done and continue to do.)

Ella told me she likes to drive on one of the roads we take around our house because of all orange "Yes" signs.

Today I went out for a bike ride onto the back roads of the nearby, more rural towns and saw my first "No on 1" signs.  This is what they say:  "Don't redefine marriage.  Vote no on 1.  Marriage = one man, one woman."

Here's the thing that I can't wrap my head around.  It seems a large majority of people against gay marriage are against it because it conflicts with the teachings of their church.  They say it is "against their religion."  Today I saw this on Facebook: "Saying that gay marriage is against your religion is like saying I can't eat a cupcake because you're on a diet." 

Am I just stating the obvious when I say that if gay marriage is against your religion than you aren't obligated to get one?

Someone recently said, regarding her position against gay marriage, that she had a "difference of opinion" on the matter.  To me a difference of opinion is that I like heath bar ice cream and you like mint chip.  It means that I am a Red Sox fan and you root for the Yankees.    You like private health care and I want universal.  If it is your opinion that gay marriage is wrong, feel free to think such things, but goodness me, don't take your opinion into the voting booth.  If you think gay marriage is wrong and you aren't going to enter into a gay marriage, then really, why do you care?  If passed, this law specifically protects religious institutions from not being required to perform gay weddings if they don't want to.  Your church and your religious beliefs remain unharmed by us having rights. Honestly, Sandi and I getting married shouldn't affect you at all and we promise not to invite you to our wedding. 

Sandi has this amazing way about her where she can extend love and generosity of spirit in the face of the opposition.  Where I draw a line and stand firmly on my side, Sandi can gracefully straddle the middle in open dialogue with those that disapprove of her.  I openly admit that this is not my strong suit. I admire her greatly for it although I am slightly flummoxed by it.  It's true that I end up more angry and hurt than anything on this very sensitive issue. Right now I feel like I am a giant walking nerve, exposed for all the world to examine, poke and judge. 

I would like a little more love and compassion for those that oppose us but, honestly, right now it is hard for me to find.   I see those "No" signs and I am overcome with anger and anguish that the people inside those houses or driving those cars think they have more of a place in society than I do. And, truthfully, a little outrage seems well placed when my rights are on the line.  Do those working against my equality deserve my love and compassion?  I suppose they do if I want love, rather than hate, to prevail in the world.  If I want to remain relatively unharmed by this process, love might be the only way to go.  Perhaps if I could channel some of that love Sandi feels I would actually feel more protected and less vulnerable to the personal attacks I feel.

Have you ever had a state-wide vote on some deeply personal aspect of your life?  If you haven't, allow me to tell you how utterly painful it is.

Did you have your marriage voted on?  Or did you just grow up with this expected right?

I realize that it is not feasible to ask people to go vote yes if they staunchly disagree with gay marriage.  But would you consider abstaining?  If it doesn't affect you- if your church won't be required to participate, if you aren't being asked to enter into a gay marriage yourself- why not just leave the issue alone?  I mean, can you really, honestly want to cast a vote to keep a subsection of society marginalized?  Does voting no to my marriage rights make your marriage, your life more secure?  More sacred?

We have some wonderful neighbors who have been our neighbors for a long time. The wife is very open-minded.  The husband is a very kind man who has struggled over the years with gay rights.  The clincher is that he loves us.  They call us the "the girls" and, because we helped him through a rough patch when his mother died years ago (really just by offering basic human kindness), he is very loyal to us.  It has been a struggle for him to negotiate his feelings for us with the teachings of his church. 

You can set your clock by his trek across the street whenever gay rights are on the ballot.  He comes over looking heavy hearted saying his wife sent him over to talk to "the girls" about what is on his mind and where his conflicts lie.  We have had many a discussion over the years and across the births of our daughters who he also adores.  He changed his opinion on the non-discrimination referendum years back when he understood, after hours of heated discussion, it wasn't "special rights" but equal rights we were looking for. It broke his heart to think one of us could lose our job for being gay.  Then it was the 2009 vote to repeal gay marriage.  He was very torn on this one- he couldn't vote for it and he couldn't vote against us.  In the end, he concluded that he just wouldn't vote, a decision we applauded for the fact that he at least wasn't cancelling out one of our votes. 

This June I had a lengthy talk with him over the current vote.  I cried and told him that I loved him and he would always be our friend, but that this inequality would eventually hurt our children and that I simply couldn't discuss it with him anymore because it was too painful for me and I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship.  He called me later that night and said, "You're right.  I support you both and your girls. I am going to vote yes on 1."

As if that weren't surprising enough, they then told us a week ago that their oldest son, a devout Christian who had the anti-gay bumper stickers on his car in 2009 had also changed his position and would be voting to support us in November. This was a complete and utter shock.  He told his parents,"I believe in a loving God and God would want to include all people."  I nearly lost my teeth at this news.

You see there aren't enough gay people to cast their votes and win on this issue. Straight people far outnumber gay individuals.  We need your help. This is the historical trajectory civil rights have always taken. It must come down to the majority saying, "Hey, it isn't fair to be treating people like this."  The gay marriage laws that exist in other states are in place because they came through the courts.  If I am not mistaken, Maine's vote in November is unprecedented because it is the first time voters have the opportunity to approve same-sex marriage. 

Oh, please Maine...don't be on the wrong side of history.

So here's what it comes down to for me.  I know that I'm not going to convince everyone that we should have the right to get married.   But I am going to ask this: if you're going to vote no on question one, can you please do me a favor? Can you not put a sign in your yard? I know I'm being a hypocrite here because, of course, I have a yes sign in my yard. But, honestly, I would rather not know who is voting against us, voting against equality and inclusion and civil rights. I want to like you. I don't want to feel negatively about you from here and evermore when I drive by your house and remember that you think my family is less than yours. I don't want my children to remember your house, your face in their community as someone who voted against them and their family.  If you must vote against us, can you pretty please do it quietly?  Can you please take a shift in the closet where gay individuals have lived for eons and hide your hate from me?  Can you hide it from my kids? 

And, if you can forgive the slightly angry overtone here and not feel too defensive from my rantings, if you are at all on the fence on the issue of marriage please give it some soul searching.   Please know that this vote means so much to me and to my family.  It isn't so we can wear the dazzling white dress.  This vote means we have an equal place in this state, in this world.  It means you see us as the contributing members of society that we are and you, because you have the power, extend the rights that are meant for all. 

Our children may be the future leaders of this country.  Show them compassion and inclusion, equality and change so that they may grow into the citizens you would want to someday make the laws that will govern you.

Please, please reconsider your position. I beg you.


Anonymous said...

Oh, if only this could be required reading for any voter in Maine. Have you considered submitting it as a letter to the editor to maybe the BDN or something?
You were preaching to the choir with me, and your words made me cry like a blog post never has. Maybe it could shift something in the hearts of people preparing to vote against you. As you have said before, it is so much easier to hate a group than an individual.
If I were religious, I would pray as hard as I could for everybody to vote yes on 1. Instead, I'm going to do my part and vote and try to get all of my friends to vote as well.
Luck, love, and peace to your family and all the families like yours, past, present, and future.

D Jewett said...

Nicely said! It is so hard not to be hurt by those No on 1 signs.. Crissy and I have been talking about getting married and are more than ready after 10 years of being together, I am excited and feeling pretty good about the vote!
I guess I am just saying that I share the same feelings and are full of optimism that people will do the right thing! Great post by the way!!

Nicole said...

Beautifully written, as always. I am sharing on Facebook. Please submit this to the BDN, or a version of it. Much love from a supporter of you, your family, and equal rights. <3

Mary Anne Conley Baker said...

Beautifully written. My husband and I have been volunteering for Mainers United for marriage. The people there are an amazing group of hard workers and volunteers. They are putting everything they have into this campaign...Hopefully their hard work will pay off in November. Our son is gay and this passing will mean everything to our family. Your posting brought me to tears. Your family is beautiful and I wish you all the best.

When Two Becomes Five said...

so well written. we agree with you 100% and will be voting yes on 1. It's about time this gets passed.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! And yes, get some version of this to a newspaper!! And keep having those one to one conversations, they make all the difference. Sue (Faith Director for Mainer's United)

Sue Estler said...

So well stated, Suzanne. Please submit to BDN and/or Press Herald. It so clearly speaks from your heart and so clearly conveys the consequences of both the vote and individual actions related to the vote. When the votes are counted, I'll have no question that there will be far more "yes" votes than there would have been without the commitment, energy, and clarity of you, Sandy and your extended family.

colenic said...

You don't know me...I was directed here from a friend's facebook page. While I have always been a supporter of equal rights, I have never read anything that has articulated this issue as well as you have. While you may think that this comes across as angry, you have articulated this deeply personal issue in a way that doesn't attack others for their opinions. Thank you for being vunerable to the world and articulating this so well.

Anonymous said...

The problem I have when people say it is against their religion is that it has nothing to do with religion. People confuse the religious term marriage with the state defined term marriage. Just like the state has a definition for divorce, the same is not always recognized by several religions. Just like the state has a definition of abortion, the same is not recognized by several religions. The issue of marriage (not just same sex marriage) should be the same. The state definition(and hopefully some day the federal definition) does not need to match any one religious definition. They are two completely different things.

Anonymous said...

beautiful. i put this into the stumbleupon database so more people can read it. college of the atlantic is doing calling services every thursday until elections as well, hopefully we can gather the support this time around!

Katie Duffy said...

You're awesome. I wish I lived in Maine so I could vote yes for you.

Joanna B said...

Beautiful and inspiring and COMPLETELY and UTTERLY true. I can't believe this is still a debate. It's something so simple. Love is love and marriage should be for any two people. Discrimination like this is ridiculous and it hurts me too, even if I'm not gay.

I just turned 18. I'm voting yes on 1.

rowgirl08 said...

I so want to read and see the pictures of your wedding here next was one of the best days of my life to see my closest rowing friend post-college marry the love of her life and yell with their boss (CEO!) who was officiating at the "by the power instilled in me by the State of Massachusetts, we pronounce you married!!!"

Sending this link to my relatives in Portland...hoping for 4 more YES votes.

Anonymous said...

I really wish this could be attached to the ballot!! I am crossing my fingers and toes that Mainstay choose to do what right, equality for everyone. <3.

Bertil said...

This is very beautifully and well written and I am honoured to share it. Living in Sweden. It is not called same-sex marriage here but "registered partnership". It is absolutely legal here but I´m afraid not all priests in all denominations are willing to perform it as a religious ceremony.I never hear or read anything about it being an issue. I am happy to say we have far fewer loud religious fanatics here. No Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. I would like to think we are less prejudiced here about equal rights. All the very best to you and yours from Sweden!! Even though I can´t vote for you, I hope for the best!!

Kathryn said...

Suzanne, this is beautifully written. It was a little bit of a shocker to read here you were making wedding plans and didnt tell me...:) just kidding. I am spreading the word here and am doing a speech on this. I love you guys and love who you are. You guys could be the poster for happy families that are functional.... I have a great feeling it's going to pass. Augusta is loaded with yes signs too. There were picketers the other day yelling out for no on one at the rotary. From what I could tell they had no support! :)

Danielle Schaub said...

This is a beautifully written post and I am looking forward to voting yes on 1!

Laurel Frost said...

I hope everyone reads this and is as moved as I was. Thank you for your inspiring words. Thankfully people are getting smarter and this issue polls better and better every year.

Anonymous said...

Very, very well said... I know where my vote is going! The biggest reason... So my kids are shown equality, love, respect and education. Thank you for wearing your heart on your sleeve and writing this. You are an amazing woman for doing so!

Leigh Anne

Kevin and Shawn said...

There really is no other way to represent this position any better. What an eloquently written letter. I am so hoping the people of my home state of Maine vote this in. Thank you for writing this letter. We will be watching following the vote. Shawn and Kevin

Claire C Thompson said...

You make me cry for the pain that you suffer at the hands of so many, even the well-intentioned. I am a retired Psyciatric Nurse, and as such made up what I called The Uneversal Apology for a particular patient of mine. I now offer it to you and your family. I am most humbled by your honest efforts to remain a person who loves in spite of all the unfair prejudice you live with. I am a Christian and cannot understaand what part of Jesus' Commandment to love each other was meant to be used against each other. I do know that words can be taken out of context, even from the bible, and I believe that happens often. I will continue to pray for all of us that we Love each other. My fervent hope is that noone remain in the closet.

Anonymous said...

I am voting Yes on 1. It is the only reason I care to even go to the polls in November.

Anonymous said...

Time for Maine to make history. And for a wedding. Keep up the planning, ladies!

Christine Nichols said...

Excellent post! I saw my first "No" signs biking yesterday. One was placed next to ours out front last night. Looking forward to it being over with.

Cici said...

Thank you Suzanne for writing this! Your words are eloquent, powerful, raw truth and compelling. I have posted it on my fb page and I'm getting many comments of appreciation, your words are spreading far. Please say hello to Sandi for me, we worked together at EMMC.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne - You don't know me, but I shared the link to your blog on my facebook page last week. As a gay woman also planning a wedding, I just wanted to say how much your post encouraged me and how well it articulated some of the same feelings I have. I was so pleased to see you in the BDN today. When the ugly comments start rolling in on the BDN (and they will, sadly), please don't let them get you down. Keep your head up, and I hope we'll all be celebrating soon!

The Miller Family said...

I found your blog through one mom in maine....a year or so ago....I wish we lived in Maine so we could support these initiatives!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is great. I have the privilege of phone banking on this issue with your Aunt Suzie, Uncle Buck, and their delightful son Noah on Sundays in Milbridge at the UCC church. They are wonderful people and want this so much for you and your family and for all of us.

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