Photo: SARAH S. KILBORNE [e]Author, editor, historian and translator[m]
Once, long ago, I was married to a wonderful man, and the marriage would have lasted long into the sunset, I’m sure, if not for one significant factor. I’m gay.
Coming out wasn’t easy—my brother-in-law told me I was a disgrace to the family—but of all people, my husband was one of the gentlest souls. His father had been gay. He had seen the struggles. And he knew I loved him and that I had tried.
For me, being gay is not a choice. It is who I am.
And today, there is only one choice for anyone who is gay and who wishes to be recognized as an equal citizen in this country: President Obama. He is the only sitting president to have publicly supported full equality for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities through both legislation and endorsement of acts that provide equal protection, opportunity and benefits to LGBT people under the law.
Of significance, President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and he passed the Mathew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Also, on May 9, 2012, he became the first president of the United States to support the right of all couples to marry regardless of sexual orientation. Obama’s support of same-sex marriage was international news, and his declaration was not simply bold but audacious.
It takes courage to be gay. And it takes a leader of real character – someone fair, just and courageous – to support gay rights on the world stage. Some day it won’t be such a big deal. But today it still is.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, could never be a leader of such character. He refuses to recognize that banning same-sex couples from marrying is denying a class of American citizens their fundamental civil rights. This is not a question of religion. This is not a question of opinion. This is a matter of freedom.
Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, perfectly, “When any society says that I cannot marry a certain person, that society has cut off a segment of my freedom.” Any man – and especially any leader – who wishes to deny his fellow citizens basic freedoms that are enjoyed by others is no man of character.
When accepting the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney said, “My promise is to help you and your family.”
But what if you’re gay and have a family? He will not help you. He has made it clear that he does not support same-sex marriage in his state of Massachusetts and that he “would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman” because, in his mind, the rights of the children are at stake. As if gay people are somehow lesser human beings, unfit for creating loving homes. Mitt Romney is not a bad man, but he is unfit to be my leader. He cannot lead me if he sees me as someone unworthy of equal representation and respect.
My younger self had no idea about all the legal benefits she enjoyed when she married. It was all so simple and effortless. If I had stayed in that life I would have known an easier road, socially and legally, but I would not have been true to myself or my husband and that wouldn’t have been fair to either of us.
He is now happily remarried to a wonderful woman, and I hope someday I might say the same.
President Obama, I will vote for you with Pride.