I came across speeches made by two Democratic State legislators concerning Gay Marriage Amendments. One was made recently by Freshman Virginia Delegate David Englin (D-45). Mr. Englin an example of the new kind of Democrat we need to clone. He could have sat quietly as he watched his seasoned collegues pontificated and voted to "protect marriage" from gays and lesbians, but he did not. He also actually asked the question that no main stream media reporter dare ask the right-wing politicians…"how exactly does this protect marriage?" This Fighting Dem, who was on duty inside the Pentagon when it was attacked on September 11 (and served in the Air Force, stationed in the Balkans), stood up and put his thoughts into the record.
Following Mr. Englin’s remarks are remarks from a while back by Representative Senfronia Thompson of the Texas State Legislature.
This makes for a long post, but I recommend you read these two speeches.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this resolution. I’m not going to talk about same-sex marriage. I’m no fool — although others might make a different judgement about a freshman delegate rising in this chamber on the third day of session. But I understand that on the issue of marriage, I’m in the minority, perhaps even in my own caucus. I also sleep very well at night knowing that at some point in the future of this great Commonwealth, those of us of my opinion will be judged to have been on the right side of history. But let’s for a moment forget about the question of same-sex marriage, because this amendment addresses much more than that. We need to be clear and honest: This amendment also outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar private legal arrangements.
We have heard from the other side that this constitutional amendment is necessary to protect conventional marriage. I am blessed with a beautiful and brilliant wife who is the love of my life. In June, Shayna and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and I would fight with every ounce of my strength anything that would threaten my marriage. So I would like to know, how exactly civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my marriage?
We have heard from the other side that this amendment will protect families. Shayna and I are blessed with a strong and bright six-year-old son, Caleb, and we have a strong family. My friend the gentleman from Rockingham County, Delegate Lohr, and I have discussed how we come from different backgrounds and different parts of this great Commonwealth, yet we share a deep and abiding commitment to our families. I want nothing more than to protect my family. I spent 12 years wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force to protect my family. I’ve been in harm’s way to protect my family. So I would like to know, how exactly do civil unions and domestic partnerships and other similar arrangements threaten my family? Because if they do, I will be the first one to stand up and fight, because nobody better threaten my family.
Moreover, we have heard from the other side that this amendment must pass sooner rather than later, as if there is some kind of crisis that is more important than issues like transportation or education or health care. Why else would this be our first order of business? Yet Virginia law already makes same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnerships illegal.
So if this amendment doesn’t help protect my marriage, and doesn’t help protect my family, and if it doesn’t even change the status of same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnership contracts, then what exactly does this amendment do? I submit to my fair-minded colleagues that this amendment sends a message. And that message is, if you are gay, or lesbian, or even a man and a woman living together and committed to each other who are not married, you are not welcome in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
And who are these people whom we are shutting out in the cold? They are my dear friends Karen and Sue, who have been together for years and are as loving and committed to each other as any husband and wife. They are my friend Lou, who served with me at the Pentagon, and continues to serve our country today. They are Father Mychal Judge, the gay priest who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 while ministering to fallen firefighters. They are Mark Bingham, a gay passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against Al Queda hijackers and sacrificed his life to save others. They are Ronald Gamboa and his partner Dan Brandhorst, who, along with their 3 year old son David, were killed when Al Quaeda flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center. They are David Charlebois, the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon when Al Qaeda tried to kill me and my comrades who were on duty inside the Pentagon at the time. They are friends and neighbors and teachers and doctors and soldiers and loving parents who want nothing more than to live life without fear that the government will tear their families apart.
I’m a student of history, and I find our Founding Fathers to be a great source of wisdom on many matters, so I want to close my remarks by reading from a letter that great Virginian named George Washington wrote more than two centuries ago:
"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind . . . a policy worthy of imitation.
All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."
Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you, be strong and of good courage and vote down this resolution.
Here are the brave words of Representative Senfronia Thompson from Texas:
I have been a member of this august body for three decades, and today is one of the all-time low points. We are going in the wrong direction, in the direction of hate and fear and discrimination. Members, we all know what this is about, this is the politics of divisiveness at its worst, a wedge issue that is meant to divide.
Members, this issue is a distraction from the real things we need to be working on. At the end of this session, this Legislature, this Leadership will not be able to deliver the people of Texas, fundamental and fair answers to the pressing issues of our day.
Let’s look at what this amendment does not do: It does not give one Texas citizen meaningful tax relief. It does not reform or fully fund our education system. It does not restore one child to CHIP, who was cut from health insurance last session. It does not put one dime into raising Texas’ Third World access to health care. It does not do one thing to care for or protect one elderly person or one child in this state. In fact, it does not even do anything to protect one marriage.
Members, this bill is about hate and fear and discrimination. I know something about hate and fear and discrimination. When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about "protecting the institution of marriage" as well. What they meant was if people of my co
lor tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum’s color, you’d often find the people of my color hanging from a tree. That’s what the white folks did back then to "protect marriage." Fifty years ago, white folks thought inter-racial marriages were a "threat to the institution of marriage."
Members, I’m a Christian and a proud Christian. I read the good book, and do my best to live by it. I have never read the verse where it says, "gay people can’t marry." I have never read the verse where it says, "though shalt discriminate against those not like me." I have never read the verse where it says, "let’s base our public policy on hate and fear and discrimination." Christianity to me is love and hope and faith and forgiveness — not hate and discrimination.
I have served in this body a lot of years — and I have seen a lot of promises broken. I should be up here demanding my 40 acres and a mule because that’s another promise you broke. You used a wealthy white minister cloaked in the cloth to ease the stench of that form of discrimination.
So, now that blacks and women can vote, and now that blacks and women have equal rights — you turn your hatred to homosexuals — and you still use your misguided reading of the Bible to justify your hatred. You want to pass this ridiculous amendment so you can go home and brag. . . brag about what? Declare that you saved the people of Texas from what? Persons of the same sex cannot get married in this State now. Texas does not now recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, religious unions, domestic partnerships, contractual arrangements or Christian blessings entered into in this State — or anywhere else on this planet Earth.
If you want to make your hateful political statements then that is one thing — the Chisum amendment does real harm. It repeals the contracts that many single people have paid thousands of dollars to purchase to obtain medical powers of attorney, powers of attorney, hospital visitation, joint ownership and support agreements. You have lost your way — this is obscene.
Today, you are playing to the lowest common denominator — you are putting aside the real issues of substance that we need to address so that you can instead play on the public’s fears and prejudices to deceive and manipulate voters into thinking that we have done something important.
I realize that gay rights are not the same as civil rights — but I can guarantee you we are going in the wrong direction. I can not hide my skin color. In fact, in most of the South, people as pink as Rep. Wayne Smith were still Black by law if they had a great grandparent who was African. I was unable to attend an integrated and equally funded school until I got my Master of Laws degree. There were separate and unequal facilities for nearly everything.
I got second-hand textbooks even worse than the kind you’re trying to pass off on every public school student next year. I had to ride to school on the back of the bus. I had to quench my thirst from filthy coloreds-only drinking fountains. I had to enter restaurants from the kitchen door. I was banned from entering most public accommodations, even from serving on a jury.
I had to live with the fear that getting too uppity could get you killed — or worse. I know what third-class citizenship feels like. In my first term, one of my colleagues walked up and down this aisle muttering about how Nigras should be back in the field picking cotton instead of picking out committees.
So, I have to wonder about Rep. Chisum’s 3/5 of a person amendment. Some of you folks hid behind your Bible then, too, to justify your cultural prejudices, your denial of liberty, and your gunpoint robbery of human dignity.
We have worked hard at putting our prejudices against homosexuals in law. We have denied them basic job protections. We have denied them and their children freedom from bullying and harassment at school. We have tried to criminalize their very existence.
But, we have also absolved them of all family duties and responsibilities: to care for and support their spouses and children, to count their family’s assets in determining public assistance, to obtain health insurance for dependents, to make end-of-life or necessary medical decisions for their life partners — sometimes even to visit in the hospital, even to defend our own country. And then, we can stand on our two hind legs and proclaim, "See, I told you homosexual families are unstable." And nearly every one of you on this Floor has a homosexual in their extended families.
Some of you have shunned and isolated these family members. Some of you, even some of the joint coauthors, have embraced them within your own family for the essence of Christianity is love. Yet, you are now poised to constitutionalize discrimination against a particular class of people.
I thought we would be debating real issues: education, health care for kids, teacher’s health insurance, health care for the elderly, protecting survivors of sexual assault, protecting the pensions of seniors in nursing homes. I thought we would be debating economic development, property tax relief, protecting seniors pensions and stem cell research, to save lives of Texans who are waiting for a more abundant life. Instead we are wasting this body’s time with this political stunt that is nothing more than constitutionalizing discrimination. The prejudices exhibited by members of this body disgust me.
Last week, Republicans used a political wedge issue to pull kids –sweet little vulnerable kids — out of the homes of loving parents and put them back in a state orphanage just because those parents are gay. That’s disgusting. Today, we are telling homosexuals that just like people of my ilk, when I was a small child, they too are second class citizens. I have listened to all the arguments. I have listened to all of the crap.
Mr. Chisum, is a person who I consider my good friend and revere. But, I want you to know that this amendment are blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry. You are trying to protect your constituents from danger. This amendment is a CYB amendment for you to go home and talk about.
I can only hope that some other Democrats can grow the same sort of spine, but I’m not counting on it.