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13 October 2004

I sat home all morning yesterday, waiting for the promised coverage by CSPAN2 of the Marriage Caravan's rally in Washington, D.C.   But it never came.    Instead I heard debates in the Senate about several important bills (I think I love Sen. Harkin), but nothing about the message my friends had gone to Washington to give.

The marriage caravan reached its destination and held the informational rally in the nation's capitol (though denied permission to hold it on the mall, where it would draw a larger audience), but the television audience may never know it.

I have followed the journals of the riders on the bus daily, and the coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle and Planet Out as they have taken their stories to the heartland of America.  In many places they encountered people who admitted they had never (knowingly) met a gay person before. 

This week I interviewed Peter Lichtenfels, who is directing The Laramie Project at the University later this month.  Though he was not speaking to the marriage caravan, he expressed beautifully why it's important for these marriage activists to do this:

When you put a face on something, people become people. You no longer perceive them as the enemy or as a non-person.

I read a journal somewhere this week which referred to the writer's town being "taken over by Arabs."  Because of fear, the writer had laid a preconceived stereotype on all of an ethnic group, without bothering to get to know them as individuals.

So this is what the marriage caravan is doing.  It is putting a face on those gay families that people dismiss as "immoral."  It is telling the stories, the effects that the marriage ban has on their lives.  It tells the audience that they are just like other people.

In the SF Chronicle this morning, Rona Marech talked about Ellen:

Ellen Pontac, rarely speaks to her daughter. Because of her religious beliefs, her daughter -- who has 10 children she doesn't allow her mother to see -- does not approve of Pontac's 30-year relationship with Shelly Bailes.

But when Pontac discovered her daughter would be in Kansas City for a Billy Graham revival at the same time the caravan was passing through, she couldn't help but invite her to an event.

She did not come.

(It's important to note, parenthetically, that Shelly was also the daughter's parent for most of her life, until the daughter married a conservative Christian who disapproved of her family and moved her to the midwest).

Rev. Helen Carroll, who is riding the bus, told the story of one of the other riders:

In Akron Beverly Senkowski was welcomed by the Unitarian Universalist community where she raised four children as the non-biological mom. Life for her revolved around their needs and wants and the children grew and prospered.

Unfortunately the relationship ended for the two moms after ten years – and the children became pawns as the biological mom ended all contact for Beverly. Beverly explained, “Many anti-gay folks say that they want to deny same sex marriage to protect the children. No one in this situation suffered more than the kids. No one's lives were changed more drastically. Remember no court intervened on their behalf. No law protected them. No system helped them to be heard. No court appointed guardian determined what was in their best interest. They were abandoned on all fronts.”

Rev. John Millspaugh talked about Sgt. Frank:

...Army Staff Sergeant Jacqueline, veteran of Desert Storm, and her partner Bev, former Army Reservist. Jacqeuline served in both Iraq and Kuwait during the Gulf War and has been awarded numerous medals during her fifteen years of service.

Had Jacqueline been killed in combat, Bev would not have known unless and until Jacqueline’s paerents--her legal next of kin--chose to inform her. The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy meant that displaying Bev’s photograph, mentioning Bev’s name, or in any other way being true to her own identity would have resulted in Jacqueline’s immediate dismissal. After fifteen years, Jacqueline found herself no longer able to live a lie and resigned, forfeiting her retirement benefits for herself and her family.

The Chronicle continued Frank's story:

When Frank spoke in Akron, where she lived until recently, her mother, father, three siblings, six nieces and nephews were all sitting in the audience. Some of them had never heard Frank's story, and when she got to the part about how she was forced to live a lie as a lesbian in the military, her tears stopped her. The hall was dead silent.

"It's OK, Jackie, your friends and family are all here," someone shouted from the back.

Shelly always sums it up so nicely.  She says "I'm sure there some out there who don't like me.  I'm also sure there some out there that I don't like.  But when I don't like someone, I don't invite them to my birthday party--I don't try to take away their civil rights."

This week in California, the gay couples who were married in San Francisco were told by California Attorney General Bill Lockyear that removal of their marriage licenses and denying them all of the rights and privilege of married couples does not violate their civil rights.

And I'm still waiting for CSPAN to give them a voice.

Website of the Day

Enough of this politics jazz.  Check out this site for some cool animation.


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Ellen and Shelly speaking in Akron, Ohio


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