GUEST POST: Dreams Do Come True
March 12, 2009
By Scott Davenport
I confess – I have a guilty pleasure. I like trolling YouTube for videos on “Marriage Equality.” About once or twice a week right before I head off to bed, I’ll go online and input those key words, ask for items posted in the last week and then sort by “most recent.” And every time I do, I get a list several pages long.
Some are news items – postings from CNN or MSNBC. Some are cell phone captures of that week’s protest or vigil somewhere (there were lots of those this week in the wake of the California Supreme Court oral arguments on Prop 8’s passage). Some are the rantings of some internet dweeb (am I an internet dweeb for trolling Youtube?!) on his or her computer cam. Some are soft sell videos: slide shows of adoring same-sex couples who got married underscored by a romantic ballad. And yes, I confess. I have a soft spot for those! A few are negative, but most seem very supportive.
Last night, though I stumbled upon my dream YouTube video on marriage equality. It wasn’t like any of those I just mentioned. In fact in a purely cinematic sense, it’s about as dry as toast! But nonetheless for me it was groundbreaking. What was it?
It was a video of the head of the Vermont state Senate (Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin) outlining not only why he supported marriage equality in his state but what he was going to do to help make it happen! (Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv3RaC7XXf8)
Just stop for minute to let that soak in. It wasn't the only openly gay or lesbian state legislator speaking. It wasn’t the Executive Director of the state's gay advocacy group. It wasn't even a non-gay, but supportive state legislator.It was the head of the state’s Senate!
And he wasn’t just saying he supported marriage equality. He talked about what he was going to do to lead the charge. He talked about how his own support of the issue has evolved (yes, even politicians can change). He talked, in effect, about how a difficult economy shouldn’t get in the way of equality for all. He talked about how couples he knows shouldn’t be treated any differently than he and his wife are treated. He gets it, and he gets it deeply.
What an amazing and courageous thing to do on the part of a politician. Most politicians find a way to dance around issues they are scared of -- even if they don’t have to be scared. (see our report: Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections).
After all take a look at this other video I found last night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVGMvYYq3PU
It’s a report on a lobbying visit to a state senator in NY (I won’t name/shame him here – you should watch the video). When asked about his support for marriage equality by constituents (yes, constituents!), he says he’s not sure why he doesn’t support it – probably it’s about religion. Yes, he actually says he’s not sure!
And then there’s my home state – Maryland (full disclosure: I’m the board president of Equality Maryland). We’ve been working to pass a marriage equality bill in Maryland, and we have some great legislative support. We have an amazing gay and lesbian legislative caucus, and an equally amazing group of allies. We have over 25% of the legislature as co-sponsors for our marriage equality bill.
Yet the head of our State Senate won’t go near the issue. Both the head of our House of Delegates and our Governor are still in the “domestic partnership” camp. So to see a leader like Senator Shumlin in Vermont says a tremendous amount to me.
It tells me that a lot of people – grass roots, organizational folks and elected officials alike -- have done a lot of work in Vermont. To have moved this far is truly an amazing accomplishment, one which offers real hope that we will see marriage equality come to Vermont this year. And if you’d like to help in any way, you should check out Vermont Freedom to Marry at http://www.vtfreetomarry.org/. They’re the ones who posted my dream video.
And so now my guilty pleasure isn’t a secret – and maybe I don’t feel so guilty about it either. After all, isn’t it great to be able to go to bed having watched your dreams come true?
Scott Davenport is managing director of Freedom to Marry.