This is the next article in a new series written by Spencer Pride, Inc. Director Kim Fidler.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 2nd. The theme for the dinner was “Change Starts with You”. While attending the dinner, I met an absolutely wonderful person named Danielle. Danielle is intelligent, a successful architect, and a transgender female. She told me of the struggles that she had being trapped in a male body as early as age 10. She spoke of her father and mother finding her “girl” clothes that were hidden in the bathroom they were renovating. They asked her at the time if she wanted to be a girl. She answered, “No!”
Danielle continued to fight her natural female instincts for many years. She married and had children, became a successful architect, and continued to struggle with her identity. Only a few years ago did she decide to live the truth and have the operations necessary to become what she truly was – a female.
When I first saw Danielle at the VIP reception, prior to the JJ Dinner, she was speaking with Governor Martin O’Malley, from Maryland. Governor O’Malley was the guest-speaker at the JJ Dinner. As Danielle spoke with the Governor, she was just fabulous and engaging. I was thrilled when she came over to sit and talk to me over champagne. I discovered very quickly that Danielle was one of the kindest, most honest and open people that I have ever met. We instantly became Facebook friends and share our pictures from the evening. I believe that I have made a life-long friend. I believe that there is a reason that we met. We just so instantly “clicked”!
This prompted me to contact Governor O’Malley to thank him for the wonderful comments that he made during the JJ Dinner about the importance of equality for all people and for all couples. I was very impressed. Governor O’Malley was first elected to the position in Maryland in 2006. He was reelected in 2010 with 56% of the vote. Prior to serving as Governor, he served as Mayor of the City of Baltimore. He received 87.2% of the vote for that office. Governor O’Malley has delivered such results in Maryland as the fastest rate of job growth in the region since the lowest point of the recession, the #1 ranking for best public schools in America for five years in a row, and the #1 ranking for holding down the cost of college tuition and for innovation and entrepreneurship for two years running.
With Maryland legalizing gay marriage under the leadership of Governor O’Malley, some conservative opponents and religious leaders are counting on members of their congregations, especially in black churches, to upend the legislation at the polls this fall. Many African American church leaders oppose gay marriage in the state that’s nearly one-third black, and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is expected to drive many to the polls. Opponents submitted draft language for a ballot referendum to overturn the measure just after it passed the Legislature. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law with it taking effect in January 2013.
Opponents will need to collect nearly 56,000 valid voter signatures, equivalent to 3 percent of the people who cast ballots in the 2010 gubernatorial election, to put the measure on the November ballot. Even gay marriage advocates expect the referendum to end up on the ballot. Six states and the District of Columbia currently recognize gay marriages. The state of Washington has also legalized gay marriage. Maine legalized the unions for same-sex couples in 2009, but later that year became the only state overturn a such a law passed by a legislature. Meanwhile, about 30 states have constitutional amendments that seek to prohibit gay marriage, most by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Gay marriage advocates are hoping that young voters — whom they expect to support their cause — will turn out for Obama as they did in 2008.
Many people believe that it is inappropriate to leave what they consider a civil rights issue to the discretion of voters. Proponents of gay marriage are also counting on religious leaders who support of the bill to influence their congregations and for labor unions to urge their members to vote to keep gay marriage legal. Some black pastors who supported the measure as a matter of civil rights appeared publicly with O’Malley, a Democrat, during the legislative debate. Regardless of the outcome, it is important to note that Governor O’Malley is a supporter of gay marriage.
Meeting Danielle also prompted me to learn more about the Stonewall Democrats. I learned that Derek Washington is the President of the Nevada Stonewall Democratic Caucus. I hope that everyone will understand why the name “Stonewall” is used to refer to this wonderful group of people if you recall that last month, I wrote about the famous Stonewall Inn in New York. There is so much history with Gay Pride! In an interview, Derek stated the following:
“At a recent meeting I was told that sometimes your issues need to take a back seat in order for a Democrat to win in the Rurals. On the surface, that seems like a reasonable thing to say. I have to wonder why “my” issues are considered so far out that it’s totally understandable for Democrats to expect “my” issues to take a back seat in order to move forward? Could it be because I am Gay and I am supposed to understand that some people are icked out by that. Therefore, my ickyness makes it perfectly acceptable for a Democratic candidate for statewide office to refuse to even answer a very basic Stonewall questionnaire? I don’t think so.”
Washington continues by saying, “If anything, my rights have a tad more standing than the groups previously mentioned. I am Gay. I am the only legally discriminated group with that discrimination enshrined across the land from the local to the national level. If anything, Dems should be working to fix that as a civil rights issue. Being in a union is a choice. A woman absolutely should be able to make choices regarding her body and health. I am a strong (almost rabid) believer in unions and the right to choose, however, they are choices. I was born Gay. I can’t imagine choosing to be reviled and persecuted along with having laws written expressly to keep me in the shadows afraid to come out in the open. Having said all that, I do understand the realities of politics. Gay rights don’t need to always be front and center of every speech and policy decision (unless they go against those rights.) but, I refuse to be handed a candidate who is either ashamed to be seen with the LGBT community or actively against us and expected to in any way shape or form help that candidate get elected. Would you ask the Black Caucus to support a KKK member? Would you expect them to be quiet about that candidate and his racist views? Would the Democratic Party ever have the temerity to even present such a candidate? I think not.”
Washington states, “Gays are much in the same place that Blacks were not so long ago. Many assume that because the Republican Party actively goes against the issues of Gays that we will just quietly sit in the back of the political bus because where else are you going to go?”
SIDEBAR: The next idiot Democrat “leader” who says to me, “what, would you rather have a Republican?” to excuse the fact that their lazy asses couldn’t go out and find real Democrats will get punched in the rhetorical neck. We LGBT Democrats are not going to be taken for granted. At least not at Stonewall. Our mission is to elect Progressives along with LGBT and Pro-Equality candidates. It is not to be free labor for candidates that we don’t feel deserve our support because, “would you rather have a Republican?” We, along with a rapidly growing part of the Democratic base want DEMOCRATS. That is as simple as I can make it. We at State Stonewall have the honor and privilege of being able to endorse in the upcoming primaries and will use that power not just for ourselves, but, for our Progressive brothers and sisters as well. I am Derek Washington and I am not just a Democrat, I’m A Stonewall Democrat!”
At the JJ Dinner, I was privileged to meet the Clark County Democratic Party Chairman in the state of Nevada, Chris Miller. Miller stated in an interview, “I am a Gay man of a certain age – yes, over 50. I grew up in a time when most LGBT Americans lived their life in a closet. As a young man living in fear of people knowing I was gay, I could only dream of being able to live my life in ‘truth’. In recent years, many things have changed for myself and the LGBT Community. I came out of that closet. Some states passed legislation protecting LGBT rights, some states have granted us the right to marry. Congress and the President passed legislation giving Gay and Lesbian Americans to ability to serve in our military. But there was always something missing. Last week, I figured out what that something was. When I heard that the President had endorsed same sex marriage I knew what that missing link was. Our President, the person this nations turns to for leadership and guidance, confirmed that I was equal. What a moment. The emotions I experienced were that of joy, elation, and of being overwhelmed. President Obama did what he felt was right for our country and I wholeheartedly agree with him.”
It was wonderful to meet so many people from Nevada and Maryland that supported the issues of the LGBT community.