Voice for Equality: Cindy McCain

Cindy McCain is an American businesswoman, and philanthropist, and the wife of United States Senator and 2000 and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona. She was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona as the daughter of wealthy beer distributor Jim Hensley. She married John McCain in 1980 and they had three children together as well as adopting another. From 1988 to 1995 she founded and ran a non-profit organization, the American Voluntary Medical Team, that organized trips by medical personnel to disaster-struck or war-torn third-world areas. Upon her father's death in 2000, she inherited majority control and became chair of Hensley & Co., one of the largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributors in the United States. She participated in both of her husband's presidential campaigns and continues to be an active philanthropist and serves on the boards of Operation Smile, CARE and HALO Trust, frequently making overseas trips in conjunction with their activities. Learn more here.

On January 20, 2010, it was announced that Cindy McCain had posed for the NOH8 (No Hate) campaign to demonstrate her support for the freedom to marry. [Link] NOH8’s Adam Bouska has photographed thousands of subjects since California passed Proposition 8 in 2008. All of the subjects are photographed with duct tape over their mouths to symbolize that their voices aren’t being heard on the subject of marriage equality. The NOH8 campaign posted the following statement on their website in conjunction with Ms. McCain's photograph:
In the year since we've started the NOH8 Campaign, we've often been surprised at some of the different individuals who have approached us showing their support. Few, though, have surprised us more than Cindy McCain - the wife of Senator John McCain and mother to vocal marriage equality advocate Meghan McCain. The McCains are one of the most well-known Republican families in recent history, and for Mrs. McCain to have reached out to us to offer her support truly means a lot. Although we had worked with Meghan McCain before and were aware of her own position, we'd never really thought the cause might be something her mother would get behind. We have a huge amount of respect for both of these women for being brave enough to make it known they support equal marriage rights for all Americans. [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Cindy McCain as a Voice for Equality! Learn about other Voices for Equality here.

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Voice for Equality: Ted Olson

Ted Olson was the 42nd United States Solicitor General, serving from June 2001 to July 2004. He is a major figure in the conservative legal movement. While serving in the Reagan administration, Olson defended President Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair. Olson argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court prior to becoming Solicitor General;in one case, he argued against federal sentencing guidelines, and in a case in New York state, he defended a member of the press who had first leaked the Anita Hill story. Olson successfully represented presidential candidate George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, which effectively determined the final result of the contested 2000 Presidential election. Learn more here.

In 2009, following some initial conversations with a group organized by Rob Reiner in Los Angeles [Link], Olson joined with David Boies, his previous adversary in Bush v. Gore, bringing a federal lawsuit Perry v. Schwarzenegger in an attempt to overturn Proposition 8, a California state constitutional amendment banning the freedom to marry. In a comprehensive January 2010 article he wrote for Newsweek, he stated:

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?

My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation. [Link]

In response to the Newsweek article, Andrew Sullivan wrote in The Daily Dish column for The Atlantic: "I've spent much of the last decade being more and more depressed by the direction of American conservatism. Ted Olson reminds me why I should hold out hope." [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Ted Olson as a Voice for Equality! Learn about our many Voices for Equality here.

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Voice for Equality: Robert A. Levy

Robert Levy is the chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute and the organizer and financier behind District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court Case that established the Second Amendment as affirming an individual right to gun ownership. He is a Cato senior fellow and an author and pundit. Before becoming a lawyer, he was the founder and CEO of CDA Investment Technologies. Levy has written extensively on constitutional and libertarian topics, with articles and Op-Ed pieces having appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, National Review, Reason and many other publications. He has also made frequent television and radio appearances, and has appeared on cable and network shows including Nightline, Crossfire, The O'Reilly Factor, Hardball with Chris Matthews and The Today Show. Learn more here.

On Thursday, January 7, 2010, the day the New Jersey State Senate was to vote on a marriage equality bill, a Robert Levy Op-Ed appeared in the New York Daily News stating that recognizing marriage rights for gay couples is not only a moral obligation, but a constitutional one:

Thomas Jefferson set the stage in the Declaration of Independence: "[T]o secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men." The primary purpose of government is to safeguard individual rights and prevent some persons from harming others. Heterosexuals should not be treated preferentially when the state carries out that role. And no one is harmed by the union of two consenting gay people.

For most of Western history, marriage was a matter of private contract between the betrothed parties and perhaps their families. Following that tradition, marriage today should be a private arrangement, requiring minimal or no state intervention. Some religious or secular institutions would recognize gay marriages; others would not; still others would call them domestic partnerships or assign another label. Join whichever group you wish. The rights and responsibilities of partners would be governed by personally tailored contracts - consensual bargains like those that control most other interactions in a free society.

Regrettably, government has interceded, enacting more than 1,000 federal laws dealing mostly with taxes or transfer payments, and an untold number of state laws dealing with such questions as child custody, inheritance and property rights. Whenever government imposes obligations or dispenses benefits, it may not "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." That provision is explicit in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, applicable to the states, and implicit in the Fifth Amendment, applicable to the federal government. [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Robert Levy as a Voice for Equality! Learn about other Voices for Equality here.

If Mr. Levy's support inspires you - get involved.

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Voice for Equality: James Rotondi

James Rotondi is a New York musician, actor, journalist and critic; he's the former Editor-in-Chief of Future Music magazine, and his interviews and essays have appeared in Spin, Rolling Stone, Guitar Player, Mojo, and The Boston Phoenix, among others. As a musician, he has played with the rock groups Mr. Bungle, the French band Air, jazz-hop pioneers The Grassy Knoll, and NYC band The Cringe. He also sings, plays and composes for albums and television. His debut solo album, Summer Home, was released under his artist alias "Roto." Raised in a political family, Rotondi is the grandson of three-term Massachusetts governor and former Ambassador to Italy, John A. Volpe. He has lived in Paris, Rome, San Francisco, and Boston, and currently resides in New York City. Learn more here.

On December 8, 2009, James Rotondi posted a blog entry on The Huffington Post entitled, "Same-Sex Marriage: "A Basic Civil Right," which discussed many of the issues involved in the Prop 8, Maine, New York and other marriage equality decisions across the country. Mr. Rontondi wrote: "Why on earth is something as basic to our democracy as full civil rights coming up for a vote at all?" Read full post here.

Freedom to Marry salutes James Rotondi as a Voice for Equality! Learn about our many Voices for Equality.

If Mr. Rotondi's support inspires you - get involved!

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Voice for Equality: Triad Equality Alliance

The Triad Equality Alliance (TEA) was founded in March 2004 as part of EqualityNC Project. TEA's mission is to eliminate prejudice and to secure social justice and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people by educating and enlightening the general public about LGBT members of the community and the special issues affecting them. Learn more here.

Since April 15th, 2004, TEA has run a series of highly visible and thought-provoking billboards at the intersection of two large highways between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The billboards have featured short pro-LGBT messages along with pictures of many local LGBT people. The campaign series have included: "Good People," "Valued Members," "All Equal," "Gay Equality," "abOUT Face" and "Long Enough" - see images below:

An example of the many volunteers who have appeared in TEA's billboards are Lennie and Pearl, who have been together for 43 years. Their story, shared on the TEA website, puts the need for equal rights for the LGBT community in sharp focus:
For 43 years we have lived love-filled lives, arrayed with rich experiences, satisfying careers, and supportive family and friends. We have known "togetherness" as a special kind of sharing - ideas, daily habits, foods, likes and dislikes, travels, finances - everything! At the same time, we have maintained great respect for each other’s "individuality." As with most people, we have worked hard, paid taxes, given service to the community, and endeavored to live lives of honesty, integrity and dedication to the greater good. But, unlike most people in the USA, we have been denied equal rights, a concept basic to the principles of our country.
Not content to rest on their laurels, Triad Equality Alliance next has its sites set on radio ads and other media to reach even more people in the future.

Freedom to Marry salutes the Triad Equality Alliance for their brilliant work in delivering effective messages to their North Carolina community that have put a face and personal spin on the marriage equality debate! Learn about other Voices for Equality here.

If TEA's activism inspires you - get involved. Click to support the urgent marriage equality effort in New Jersey here!

**Make your NOMINATION for a Voice for Equality today!

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Breakfast with Evan

November 14, 2009
A summary of a recent breakfast chat with Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson about current events in the marriage equality movement - including Evan's position that "the most effective technique for advancing marriage equality is the hard work of one-on-one conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and other voters and legislators on a town-by-town, district-by-district, state-by-state basis." [Link]

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Voice for Equality: Stephen Skinner

Stephen Skinner is the founder and President of Fairness West Virginia and the first and only out gay official in the state of West Virginia. Skinner is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and the West Virginia University School of Law. He has practiced law in New York City, Washington, D.C., and his native West Virginia. While a lawyer in New York, Skinner represented aviation disaster and other catastrophically injured victims, including victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Learn more here.

Mr. Skinner is a board member of the West Virginia Association for Justice and recently stepped down after three years as President of the Board of Trustees of the Contemporary American Theater Festival. In 2008, Skinner was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Barack Obama, representing West Virginia's Second Congressional District. Governor Manchin recently appointed him to the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, making him the first gay official in West Virginia. As President of Fairness West Virginia, the gay rights organization for the state of West Virginia, he has argued strenuously against a state constitutional amendment to define marriage in July, 2009.

Mr. Skinner recently published a letter to the Fairness West Virginia website, saying:

Even in West Virginia, why does the California Supreme Court decision on Prop 8 sting so much? We are all, in every state, disappointed by the Court's ruling upholding the ban on marriage equality and its denigration of basic civil rights in California. This is probably because, in part, for so many people, California represents so many good things to the LGBT community.
Freedom to Marry salutes Stephen Skinner as a Voice for Equality! See other Voices for Equality here.

If Mr. Skinner's support inspires you - get involved!

**Thank you to Grant Gilles for this nomination! Make your NOMINATION for a Voice for Equality today!

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Voice for Equality: Professor Maggie Childs

Maggie Childs is the chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition and an associate professor at the University of Kansas. Maggie received her B.A. from Gettysburg College, her M.A. in Japanese from Columbia University, and her Ph.D. in Japanese from the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Childs has served as the chair of the University of Kansas, Department of East Asian Languages. She has also taught at Southern Illinois University, Columbia University, and the University of Michigan. Learn more here.

Maggie has been the chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition since being elected to that position in 2005. Before that, she served as the chair of the Lawrence Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition. As chair of the Lawrence chapter, Childs supported a local registry for same-sex couples to help secure marriage privileges for Lawrence couples. As Edge Boston reported,

Childs said she hope[d] a registry would provide a toehold in eventually overturning the state ban on marriage equality, saying gay couples should have the same rights as straight people when it comes to child custody, insurance or making medical decisions for a partner. [Link]
Freedom to Marry salutes Professor Maggie Childs as a Voice for Equality!

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Marriage Equality Struck Down in California—One Year Later

The Huffington Post
November 2, 2009
Freedom to Marry Voice for Equality, Rev. Eric Lee, President/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, remembers the anniversary of the passage of Prop. 8 in California and says that the issue of marriage equality needs to be re-framed for those who voted for the proposition because of their religious beliefs. [Link]

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Voice for Equality: Philip Spooner

In the spring of 2009, Philip Spooner, an 86-year-old World War II veteran who served with General Patton, was at Omaha Beach and participated in the liberation of Paris, spoke out about his loss of his wife of 54 years, and his four sons, one gay, all of whom served their country as their Father did.

Mr. Spooner spoke of the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald, and said it "takes all kinds of people" to make this world what it is, and that fighting in WWII was to protect the very American ideals of freedom and opportunity for all.

"We raised them all to be hardworking, patriotic Americans" said Spooner of his four sons. "The woman at my polling place asked me do I believe in equality for gay and lesbian people. I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, 'what do you think I fought for in Omaha Beach?'" [Link]

The video of Mr. Spooner's speech became an Internet sensation, receiving hundreds of thousands of hits from people all over the world, and a strong argument for the No on 1/Protect Maine Equality pro-marriage equality movement. [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Philip Spooner as a Voice for Equality! Learn about other Voices for Equality here.

If Mr. Spooner's support inspires you, take action! Link to No on 1/Protect Maine Equality to find out how you can help with the vital work of preserving marriage equality in Maine!

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