Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I believe in the freedom to marry because...

As someone who's been working as a volunteer or paid staff in the LGBT and progressive community for nearly 15 years, there are many reasons I choose to put my time, talent and treasure into working for the freedom to marry in California. I do it because it's an opportunity to build power for our community. I do it because--while we may not all agree about the actual institution of marriage--the issue is a bell weather topic for the American population. And as such, confronting the issue of the freedom to marry gives us a chance to combat basic homophobia and transphobia. Because, as I've discovered over the past months, supporting the freedom to marry is a simple proposition: do you believe that love is love is love?

I do, but I didn't always think our community should be spending so much time, energy and resources on it. And, while there are many issues that are as or more important to the LGBT community and our allies, I have had a personal transformation about how I come to the freedom to marry work. I used to come to it from a purely political place. And now, it's personal. And not just personal because I believe that my love for my partner is equal to my sister's love for her husband.

In a writing exercise that was facilitated by one of the Let CA Ring organizers, I realized that I cared about securing the freedom to marry for all because of my Mom.

As the daughter of a public school teacher, my Mom always taught me that as a people, even if we disagreed about issues, everyone deserved the opportunity to realize their hopes and dreams and be treated fairly. It wasn't until this little writing exercise that I realized that my Mom deserves that same opportunity.

When I came out to her at 19 (she had been asking me if I was a lesbian since I was 14 so this was no big shock!), her first response was that of sadness and worry while she exclaimed, "You won't be able to build the life you've always dreamed - getting married, having kids, etc." Now, this was the Mom who always reminded me that she had gay and lesbian friends long before I was even thought of. This was the woman who's mother actively fought for the ERA and continued her active involvement in progressive organizing until she died. My coming out was in no way the end of the world for my family or a day to be mourned in infamy. In fact, just the opposite. My folks and my sister, my grandparents and my godparents were supportive and joyful that I finally felt free to be me.

But back to the moment of sadness and worry. It wasn't until just the other day that I realized that precisely because I don't have the freedom to marry is what brought my Mom (and I'm sure countless others) to the point where her love and joy for me came in direct conflict with what she knew to be a barrier in her own hopes and dreams for her daughter and herself.

Not only do two people in a loving, trusted relationship deserve the honor and support that comes with marriage, so does my Mom. She deserves to be treated with the same honor and support from her friends and colleagues when she's recounting stories about my life with my partner as when she's telling tales about my sister and her husband.

Excluding someone from marriage is like excluding them from being part of a family. I have a great family and a great Mom. I believe in the freedom to marry because she taught me that people should be able to have different beliefs and still be treated fairly. And, because she deserves to have 2 girls, not just 1, who get to realize their hopes and dreams of a fairy tale wedding and a fairly tale life!

Btw, the photo is of my sister, Katie and her husband Lee (and the best 7 year old nephew EVER) at their wedding this Summer. I of course, got to be bridesmaid. :-)