07 October 2008

Working for the cause of equality

I spent a part of my Tuesday working the “No on 8” booth at a farmer’s market in a town a few miles from my home. It was an interesting experience. Bart (of Bart and Tony! – my friends who were married in August) put out an S.O.S. this morning asking for last minute volunteers. I’m glad I decided to work the booth.

I've lived here for the past 51-years (coincidentally, I’m 51-years old). Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that in this Republican, fundamentalist area, there would be a booth supporting same-gender marriage, or that I would be working in it. But there was, and I did.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who stopped by just to say "right on," or “I'm with you,” or “I'm voting no, too.” They ran the full spectrum from about 4th Grade on up to senior citizens. (Yes, a fourth grade girl, with younger brother in tow, stopped and talked to us for quite a while; said she believes “everybody should be able to get married if they want to.).

We had only one person (an elderly woman) who engaged us in debate, on religious grounds, of course. I nearly had her converted though. I learned that her nephew is gay. I used her love for him as part of my logic of why she should vote “no.” I know it was an appeal to emotion and therefore a logical fallacy, but the whole anti reasoning is an appeal to emotion, so why not use their logic against them?

Just as she was committing to truly reevaluate her opinion, my booth mate entered the conversation and ruined the progress I'd made. He has two children who are gay (he is straight by the way). I admire him for devoting so much time to the cause of equality in marriage. However, he came on like ActUp, and told her “people like you scare me.” Well, there went all the good I’d accomplished

It was the young people who really amazed me. They were all, without exception, firmly in the “no” camp. One young man, whom I was sure had made an anti-gay remark, came back with his mother, and explained the whole “yes/no” issue to her, and told us he would be voting “no.” (He was also shirtless when he came back!) Every person under about 30-years of age stopped and told us they were voting against the initiative.

I was surprised at the number of lesbians who were at the farmer’s market. They all stopped and talked to us. I must admit, and I apologize for this, I don’t think about lesbians very often (but, I really don't think much of any one's sexuality.) So I was pleasantly shocked by the number of female couples in our area. One couple had only been married a few days. Another couple had a blessing sixteen years ago but was married just this last August.

One young woman mentioned the religious aspect of the debate,and said that, because of the “ignorance and intolerance” in the religious community, she could never attend church. I invited her to St. James’ and told her our a new priest is a lesbian and who has a partner. The woman nearly fell over and said, “Now, THAT is the kind of church I can go to.” When she left, she told me she would see me Sunday, and I told her only if she comes to the eight o’clock mass. I really hope to see her there because she was absolutely delightful to talk with.

A straight couple in their late twenties stopped by and talked with us for about ten minutes. I learned they are from Wyoming and he is a biologist working in our area for two months. They were both very supportive of the equal rights cause.

All in all, it was a very good experience and I learned a lot.

During the conversation with the biologist from Wyoming (sigh), I had to think of what this day is – 7 October. And I marvelled that this young straight couple was so supportive of Gay rights, and that they are from Wyoming. I could not think of a better way to honour Matthew than by making my first foray into political activity in support of GLBT rights.

I find it incredible that after my positive experience today, and the one hundred percent support of every young person at the farmer’s market that I should find an article by IT over at Friends of Fr. Jake that the young people are now turning their support to the “yes” camp. I just cannot believe that survey is accurate. I have to work now to prove it false.

I also learned that a young gay man was severely assaulted and gang raped in Houston, Texas last Sunday by at least three US Soldiers.

As I write this review of my day, it is almost exactly ten years to the hour when Matthew Shepard was abducted. Have things changed much in the past ten years?

Ora et Labora, brothers and sisters, ora et labora.