Baby steps to marriage equality
It turns out Harvey Milk was right.
In a speech on Gay Freedom Day in 1978 he said, “Gay brothers and sisters … You must come out. Come out … to your parents … I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives … come out to your friends … if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors … to your fellow workers … to the people who work where you eat and shop … come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.”
The 2013 Legislature will be most remembered for the compelling debate on marriage equality that featured a senator coming out on the Senate floor, a lesbian preacher, also a senator, matching the Bible-belt bigots with chapter and verse, and a litany of legislators proclaiming their support due to personal ties: a gay friend, a gay brother-in-law, a gay mother.
Stealing the show in the Assembly hearing were children who attended with their gay parents, enduring more than an hour of vitriolic nonsense from those who would deny their parents the right to marry. People actually got up in public and testified the measure would increase disease rates and show that our society is “devolving.” A representative from the Nevada Livestock Association talked about sodomy and “freemartins” (Google it) as reasons to oppose marriage equality, saying, “I want to speak to the quality of the animals. To do this and pass this bill to make other people feel equal I think is wrong.”
The Twitterverse erupted after every outrageous statement, painting a picture of out-of-touch, older, rural Nevadans stuck in a time warp. Perhaps the best tweet of the debate came from Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius who advised the haters: “Don’t tell the committee you have gay friends but oppose them having equal rights. Tell your FRIENDS that.”
Riley Roberts, a high school student from Reno and the son of a lesbian couple, gave gripping emotional testimony in support of the measure, arguing that his parents should have the same rights as heterosexual married couples: “I was born in Nevada 18 years ago and guess who was there? My mom Pamela Roberts and Gretchen Miller, my loving parents. And who was there to watch me take my first steps? Pamela Roberts and Gretchen Miller.”
Despite the powerful testimony, many Republican legislators were clearly not listening, having already made up their minds that gay parents are inferior. In his e-letter to constituents, Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey wrote: “What concerns me the most—are not the personal preferences of adults entering into relations of their own choosing, but the impact re-defining of marriage has on those who don’t have a choice in the matter—children. … Redefining marriage further distances the needs of children and denies as a matter of policy, the ideals that our offspring need a mother and a father. By saying that marriage is more about adults’ emotional bonds or legal privileges than it is about children’s needs, means children will become less a primary responsibility for parents—and an even greater one—for government.”
The irony of this statement from someone who was “matched” with his wife and married by Sun Myung Moon in a group ceremony with 2,000 other couples is unfathomable. No one questions his choices or his ability to parent, yet he righteously judges others.
In the end, there’s no doubt that Legislators who vote against marriage equality this year will be asked by their grandchildren in years to come: “Why did you vote against love?”