My fellow Americans, I’m speaking to you tonight because we are making a mistake. For too long, Democrats and Republicans both have shunned gay Americans. For too long, we’ve taken a moral and decent minority’s rights away based on their orientation. In my own life, I’ve struggled with my feelings over same-sex marriage, just as many of you have. As a Christian, we are taught to believe that homosexuality is wrong and I took those Biblical moral lessons to heart. We’ve allowed conservative forces to shamelessly exploit our moral values to wreck the lives of gay and lesbian Americans.
Everyone remembers the 2004 campaign. Everyone remembers the vicious and discriminatory constitutional amendments Republicans put on ballots in states across the country to take the right to marry away from same-sex couples. The value system which led to those amendments is not my value system and it cannot be sustainable in the world as it is today. Conservatism does not work.
We’ve seen it in the news with people heckling lawmakers at town hall events instead of engaging in a debate. We’ve seen it in the offensive and, frankly, racist signs that always seem to appear at Tea Party events which no one will claim credit for. It is a vicious cycle of hate. This is the United States of America. We don’t hate our neighbors. We don’t shun our brothers and sisters. We are in this together.
That is my value system. We are all in this together. That’s what makes me a proud Democrat. It’s the idea that, as Paul Wellstone said, everyone does better when everyone does better. So I’m here tonight to talk to you about doing better. I’m here to talk to you about lifting up all voices, and guaranteeing equal rights for all Americans regardless of gender, orientation, race, religion or economic status. Our country was founded on that concept and it can’t change. Without those guiding principles we will have truly lost our way as a country. As your President I can’t let that happen.
Last year, I signed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act to finally punish those who would seek to terrorize gay and lesbian citizens. But this is not enough. It can’t be enough.
Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have fought hard battles in the midst of some of the worst anti-gay campaigns. Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have faced down attacks and vandalism, they’ve faced witch hunts under the odious Don’t Ask Don’t tell, they’ve faced job discrimination. Straight people have likely faced job discrimination just for a perception that they were gay. And gay and lesbian citizens have pushed for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and Congress won’t move on it. This bill has 89% support of the American people, and Congress wants to avoid its passage. This is wrong.
I can’t imagine the terror some gays and lesbians face. I’ve received thousands of letters from everyday average gay citizens telling me in stark terms what these bills would do for them. What marriage would do for them. Knowing that our government, the government I’m responsible for right now, has aided this terrorism and has caused untold numbers of suicides amongst gays and lesbians truly sickens me. Knowing that under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, women are often raped and threatened to be outed as gay if they report it makes my blood run cold. It’s truly chilling. We are doing this to these people and for my part, I want it to stop. It is time to reverse course.
Also tonight, I speak to you because I have changed my mind on the issue of marriage for gay and lesbian citizens.
I campaigned on a now outdated and obsolete platform of supporting civil unions for gays. Recent events have led me to conclude that civil unions are not enough. Think about this: if civil unions were just as good as marriage, why not call them marriages? The word marriage has special emotional and societal connotations. Being able to say you’re in a marriage makes you feel whole, as one of the people suing to overturn Prop. 8 said during the District Court trial. I cannot take that away from gays and lesbians anymore. We all deserve the opportunity to feel whole. We deserved to be loved, respected, even valued – not just by our significant other but by society itself.
I don’t know what I would do without my wife Michelle and our kids. I couldn’t be the same person. I’ve been blessed with her love and understanding for years. Her acceptance. Doesn’t everyone deserve this? I remember even now how it felt to get married. How it felt to know that we are going to be together forever. Marriage makes your bond, your relationship even stronger. You feel untouchable. You feel safe.
There is simply no reason to deny these feelings, and especially these legal rights, to gays and lesbians any longer. Our government has a lot of work to do to atone for the horrors it has inflicted upon gays and lesbians and to turn away, finally, from the ineffective and unrealistic government philosophy of conservatism, and I hope my speech tonight is a good first step in advancing that conversation. Tonight I am telling you in unequivocal terms: I support the right to marry for gays and lesbians. Let us act and work together to make that a reality and correct decades of wrongs against our people.
Thank you and God bless everyone.
Scottie Thomaston (indiemcemopants) is a 26-year-old Alabama blogger who has written about politics on various blogs since age seventeen. A disabled, ‘out’ gay man, his principal themes have been LGBT rights, torture, NSA spying and the challenges of disability. His pieces have appeared on Daily Kos (where he also moderates a community series on disability), Firedoglake; and on his own blog, "Ignorance is…" The quality of his writing earned him a 2010 Netroots Nation scholarship from Democracy For America and a citation in the New York Times Opinionator column. He is actively building his career as a professional new media journalist.
You can find him on Twitter: @indiemcemopants