Vote Equality

Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in four states today. Thirty-two times before voters have cast ballots on the question of marriage equality throughout this country, and thirty-two times we have lost.  But this is the first time that the question has been on the ballot since the repeal of DADT and the president going on record as saying that lesbian and gay couples should have equal rights. Now, I know that some of you will still say that the president’s initial position was to endorse civil unions but not gay marriage. That is true. But you know what? I don’t care. The fact is that he came around and endorsed our right to marry, and that is huge. I’ve had people in my life tell me that getting to know Sandy and me has changed their opinion on same-sex marriage. That’s a good thing. Changing hearts is important.

So, here we are on yet another election day. I hope all of the marriage equality ballot measures are successful. The country is moving in the direction of equality, much to the consternation of the religious right. Try as they might, as with all civil rights issues before, truth, love, and equality will prevail. Those of you in Maryland, Minnesota, Maine, and Washington should know that we are all with you in spirit. In Maryland the marriage equality initiative seems solid, with a 9 or 10 point lead. Maine’s marriage referendum looks like it has the votes, with a 13-point lead. Washington has the brightest outlook, with a 54 to 38% lead among likely voters. Minnesota’s question is a gay marriage-banning proposal, or to put it more honestly, the conservatives want to enshrine inequality into the Minnesota constitution.

What all of these initiatives have in common is this: The people have the power to choose equality. And if you’re a lesbian or gay citizen in those states, or the friend or family member of a lesbian or gay American, it’s your duty to get out and vote. There is no room for apathy, folks. I hear so many of my friends saying, “Oh, I don’t like politics,” or some other lame excuse for inaction. If you don’t look out for your own self-interest, how can you expect others to do so? Friends, this is how our country works. Democracy is a privilege and a duty. Today, this duty couldn’t be more important, not only in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, but everywhere in this country. If you care about equality, get out and vote. It’s imperative. Your quality of life depends on it.

The gains made for equality are fragile, and we’ve seen what can happen when we allow those who stand against us to frame the message. The stakes for those of you with marriage equality on the ballot are high and the implications for the rest of the country are huge. Momentum builds, change takes hold, and equality eventually wins. History bears this out. Get out the vote. Tell your family and friends. Let them know this is personal. Make your voice heard for equality. This is your moment.

Vote.

Holy Kluwe, these guys are awesome!

I’m a huge football fan—American football—college, professional, doesn’t matter. In my household, Saturdays and Sundays (and Monday & Thursday nights) are all about the pigskin. In the past couple of weeks, there have been some amazing equality-related events revolving around the game of football in our country. Turns out, not all big jocks are homophobic jerks, as we’ve been led to believe. Way cool!

Here’s the question: Does a pro football player have the right to speak out about social or political issues they believe in? If they share their opinion, should they be at risk of losing their job when the wrong person disagrees?

Consider Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who came out publicly in support of a Maryland referendum on gay marriage last month, drawing ire of Maryland House of Delegates Member Emmett C. Burns. Burns wrote to Ravens owner, Steve Biscotti, that he “found it inconceivable that Ayanbadejo would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically as a Ravens football player.” Is Burns implying that it’s inconceivable that a football player should support equality? He said further, “I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football League Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL  player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.”

Injurious actions? Exactly whom is Mr. Ayanbadejo injuring by supporting equality? The Baltimore Ravens? The NFL? The State of Maryland? Delegate Burns? Well, as it turns out, I’m not the only one wondering. Next up is Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who defended Ayanbadejo and wrote a letter lambasting Delegate Burns for his bigotry. In a very colorfully worded response to Burns, Kluwe rightly calls the question on both Ayanbedejo’s right to speak freely about his beliefs and gay marriage, by reminding us that as recently as the 1960’s pro sports were still segregated institutions. That changed in no small part due to the outspoken players such as Jackie Robinson.

We’ve talked here about the importance of lesbian and gay public figures coming out and the positive affect on the lives of countless people. These are outstanding examples of our straight allies having the courage to speak out about our human rights. Delegate Burns is correct when he says that it is unusual for a member of the NFL to speak publicly on issues such as marriage equality. That is what makes the words of public figures, these professional athletes—our gridiron heroes, even more potent. These men are showing great character in taking a stand for equality, when they clearly could remain silent. Their willingness to speak about equality to their fans, many of them conservative and clinging to irrational biases, is a positive force that cannot be understated.

I sincerely hope the NFL, nor their respective teams give these players any grief for their comments. After all, nobody is calling for the censuring of Tim Tebow when he supports Focus on the Family or other anti-gay groups. Or are NFL players only allowed to speak their minds when Mr. Burns and those like him agree with the message? Should the NFL or individual teams prohibit players from giving their personal opinions on matters outside the game? I don’t know. However, the point is that either players can speak openly about their personal beliefs or not; you can’t have it both ways.

“Its an equality issue. I see the big picture,” Ayanbadejo says. “There was a time when women didn’t have rights. Black people didn’t have rights. Right now, gay rights is a big issue and it’s been for a long time. We’re slowly chopping down the barriers to equality.” For me, Kluwe gets the last word. Topping off his very animated, pro-equality letter he said this: “You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails.”

 Amen to that. I’m not a Vikings fan, but I’m thinking my next NFL purchase is going to be a purple number 5 jersey.

Thanks for reading

~LM