An Angel from Laramie From Nichol in Laramie, Wyoming
This picture is from the cover of the DVD, Laramie Inside Out, the film by Bev Seckinger, a feminist filmmaker from University of Tuscan coming back to Laramie, WY, her hometown, after the murder of Matthew Shepard. She created a film that discusses what is like to be an out lesbian woman who just discovered a horrific hate crime just happened in the town that she grew up in, the town once thought of as "home" and "safe" is now synomymous with hate. The film is excellent because it neither villanizes nor covers up for the issues that arise in Laramie. It discusses how something like this could happen but also shows people like Jim Osborn, Mickey Patterson, and me--people who love Laramie and want everyone who resides here to be safe, happy, and celebrated.
The woman on the cover is me, Nichol Elder. I was an angel standing silently against hate and hate crimes and for the right of people to love whom they love in 1998 and I still stand for this right today. I'm a high school English teacher at Laramie High School. It is the school where the two boys who killed Matt Shepard went to school, though I did not teach there then. It is also the only school in the state of Wyoming to have an active GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) and an Amnesty International club. I'm a faculty co-sponsor of both of these clubs.
I'm also getting married July 18, 2009 just outside Laramie, Wyoming. When I shared with my friend, Jim Osborn, that I had gotten engaged, he shared his exciting news that he too was engaged. Just before he presented about LBGTIQQ issues with my students at Laramie High School, we stood outside and discussed how excited we are for one another that after 10 years of observing the ups and downs of life, we get to see our friends be happy and in love. However, my marriage gets to be legally represented in the state of Wyoming and Jim's doesn't.
This seems not only to be unjust and unfair, it seems to be a violation of his and fiancee's human rights. To deny that one relationship has some validity over another is unfair. It is a justification for the hate crimes and hate speech that we have been fighting against for over a decade.
So, where being silent as an angel against hate was how I stood up in 1998, in 2009, it is that I will speak up and I will have a "love is a human right" table at my wedding. At that table, I will have ribbons for each guest to wear, with the WhiteKnot.org label stating "We support marriage equality." There will be a petition for each guest to sign, supporting that love is a universal human right and that all people have the right to marry whom they love. The petition will be sent to state and national legislature.
It used to be illegal for interracial couples to marry and the status quo now realizes what a violation of individual rights this was--how absurd and ridiculous and racist this practice was! My hope is in 1, 2, 5 years--how ever long it takes--people will also realize that denying marriage to same sex couples is also absurd and a violation of individual rights!
18,000 White Knots: From Definance to Hope A message from Frank: A group of fantastic people in Austin, Texas has been making White Knots and sending them wherever they are needed. The words below are their collective voice. Simply put, their words and actions inspire me. (In the photo below are the 3000 White Knots they made for the Meet in the Middle event on May 30 in Fresno, CA.)
They are Jennifer, Jessica, and Caroline (with assists from Ellen, Maureen, Alex, Bea, Kelly, J, Rory, Heather, Pat, Becca, Emily, Peter, James, Nina, Ryan, Nicole, Karen, and Megan).
We have been making knots and sending them to as many organizers as we can. As of May 20th, 2009, we have made 18,000 knots. One for every couple in California who may be forcibly divorced by Proposition 8. We have sent them all over the country, from Vermont to California, from Hawaii to South Dakota.
When we began, it was from a place of despair at the passage of the anti-marriage amendments on November 4th. We live in Texas, where a Defense of Marriage Amendment forbids not only the recognition of marriages, but also of civil unions, domestic partnerships, or anything resembling them.
So the first knots we made, we made out of defiance.
But over the months, we have watched the fabric of the country change, as state after state has made marriage equal for the first time in history. As we have sent out package after package, defiance has become hope. And certainty:
It matters for the 18,000 couples whose marriages are threatened, it matters for California, and it matters for our nation. Will we have to look shamefaced from the gaze of history, knowing when we had the opportunity to make our country just, and equal, that we failed to do so? Or will we be able to look history proudly in the eye and say Yes, we stepped forward. We made it right.
I want to be proud of California. I want to be proud of us.
We must reach across the states to each other if we are to succeed. Because we do not exist in isolation – the actions in one state cross the borders into the hearts and minds of people throughout the country. Those of us in Texas, in every state with a DOMA, we believe in this fight just as strongly as people who have brought their states to the brink of equality and beyond it. But all of you – California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, every state fighting and winning equality – you light our way.
Burn as bright as you can, so that we may follow.
"Break the silence. We need to keep talking." A stirring speech given by Anna Livia, age 13, at the Outlet fundraiser in Mountain View, CA
Hello. My name is Anna Livia Chen and I’m here to recruit you. I am here to recruit you to start the courageous conversations needed to achieve the change we all desperately want to see.
You are here tonight because you are part of . . . or are an ally of . . . the queer community. Thank you for supporting Outlet, which has made such a difference in my life as well as the lives of countless other queer or questioning youth in the bay area. Outlet not only supports youth, but also empowers them to start talking about the issues critical to our every day lives, and getting involved in making a difference. This is an amazing start, for even many adults never get active in the causes they care about and are affected by. Outlet has helped open up youth conversations about gay rights and how we can achieve them.
However, this is not enough to make change. It is a huge step to start talking, but we need to keep talking and not just to those who already support gay rights. As hard and difficult as it may be, the ones we must start talking to are those who may not understand how people, gay and straight, are affected by laws like Prop 8. The ones who we must start talking to are those who may not share our point of view on issues like marriage equality. The ones we must start talking to are those who may even be against gay rights. The ones we must start talking to are those that we have not been talking to, but need to hear what we have to say. And so, to truly bring about the change we wish to see we must start initiating these courageous conversations.
Not so long ago—even just half a year prior—I was so shy about all this queer stuff. Only a few people even knew I had two moms (this being before I had come out to myself); I was afraid even to tell people my mom was gay. But after Prop 8, something shifted. I’m not quite sure what, and I’m not positive why it had such an impact, but something changed. Suddenly, I didn’t care about who knew what, and what they would think. It started with my silent protest against Prop 8 that I organized at Graham Middle School, with over 100 students and faculty participating. This activism grew to include starting a GSA at Graham and going to a Queer Youth Leadership Camp, all leading up to me receiving this award. You see, after Prop 8 passed, something had shifted so that I was bold enough to start launching those courageous conversations. Without them, the silence grows and people continue to misunderstand the queer community. But by courageously stepping up and launching these exchanges, that silence is broken, and we can start seeing that change. It starts with discussing those ideas rarely talked about, and can evolve in to so much more, literally changing peoples’ minds about how they view the queer community. Since the election, more people have been starting those conversations and we have seen the consequent change in Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, and Washington DC.
So now, I challenge each and every person in this room to start breaking that silence. I know it can be hard—I was in that place just 6 months ago—but this small act—starting one conversation—can make such a difference in yourself, in your friends, in your community, in the world. I know, personally, that my friends seem more conscious of their words and actions, and the queer community now that I’ve started these conversations, and continue them on a regular basis. We must be the change we want to see in the world; and I believe that having these courageous conversations will be doing just that.
My name is Anna Livia, and I’m here to recruit you.
Explaining the meaning of the White Knot from F.L. Schmidt in West Newton, MA
Once I learned about White Knot I knew I had to do something to promote this. I am a divorced man with 2 children and 3 grandchildren, I have a homophobic sister and an extremely accepting sister. When I explained to them the meaning of the White Knot I was able to use a nephew as another example as he married a black woman - something which was illegal in most states at the time of his birth 34 years ago. THAT they understood. And being the the midst of some very high ranking military personnel I felt, frankly, that it was my duty to let them know that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not only not working but is harming the efficiency of our service branches. Many of them asked, and not one of them gave me any flak about it! (My sister is only worried that I'll get married to a man at the tender age of 62 - fat chance - but others must have the right to do so if they choose.)
We Love Grover
While not a real "story" like the other entries on this page, the boy's words are real and unrehearsed and show us once again that in looking to the children we find the simple answers that bring us together.
"We don't have same-sex marriage in The Netherlands. We just have marriage." from Erik in The Netherlands
Lessons from Mom: When Interracial Couples Won the Right to Marry from Stuart and John
My husband John and I are newlyweds after 21 years together – happily married since our wedding this June. Exchanging vows surrounded by our family and friends was one of the happiest moments of our lives. Having my parents witness a second generation in our family attain the freedom to marry was especially meaningful, because of their experiences as an interracial couple.
My mother, who is Chinese American, was only able to marry my father, who is English and Irish, because the California Supreme Court 60 years ago became the first state supreme court in the nation to overturn a ban on interracial couples marrying. My mother still remembers the day when one of her friends in the Chinese Students Club at U.C. Berkeley had to leave the state to marry her white fiancee a few years before the Court’s decision. My mom's friend literally had to run from the law to marry the person she loved, simply because they were of different races.
In its historic 1948 decision, Perez v. Sharp, the California Supreme Court held that each citizen’s fundamental constitutional right to marry was really no right at all, unless it meant the freedom to “marry the person of one’s choice.” My parents married in the International House at Berkeley, the very same place they'd met. But as they moved to other states, they found that each state’s laws treated their marriage differently simply because of their races. While looking for a house in Missouri, they learned that Missouri law prohibited marriage between whites and “negroes” or “Mongolians,” the term then used for most Asian Americans.
When I was growing up, my parents didn't discuss these discriminatory laws over the dinner table. But it wasn’t until 1967 that the US Supreme Court overturned all such laws nationwide in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case. The court declared marriage is one of the “basic rights of man.”
Last year, my mother, John, and I flew to Washington, DC together as a family for events commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Loving decision. My mother spoke out at the Capitol for the rights of all loving couples to wed, including her own son and son-in-law. Mildred Loving, who brought the historic lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court, stated that “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.” Later last year, our parents and over 30 family and friends joined me and John in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. I have never been so proud of my family.
Over 60 Asian Pacific American organizations supported the lawsuit for marriage equality decided on May 15 by the California Supreme Court. The Japanese American Citizens League, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center are just a few of the groups that submitted an eloquent amicus brief supporting the freedom to marry, with lead author Kevin Fong, appellate specialist with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
“The Asian Pacific American organizations and Bar Associations involved felt it important to submit this amicus brief to unearth and bring to light some of the historical examples of California's exclusionary laws to remind the Court of the negative and real harms that these unfair laws have had on the impacted communities,” said Fong. “The Asian Pacific American communities suffered from the legalization of popular prejudices of yesterday that can clearly be seen as Constitutionally unconscionable today. The Court must ensure that popular prejudice does not cloud Constitutional principles that apply equally to all people. We hope the brief will help provide support for ensuring that it is the American tradition of inclusion and rightly past legal wrongs that prevails in this case.”
“Marriage is an important necessary step for an excluded group to integrate fully into society and such integration is essential for an excluded group to achieve security within the larger society,” added Fong.
Getting legally married this June, surrounded by our family and friends, was a dream come true. As we exchanged vows and were pronounced spouses for life, we felt that for the first time in our lives that our government was treating us equally under the law, and treating our relationship with full dignity and respect. The day was so transformative that we have committed to do everything we can to secure the freedom to marry permanently.
Just as the California Supreme Court said over 60 years ago with my parents’ generation, my fundamental constitutional right to marry really means nothing to me if I can’t marry the person I choose. Today, barring interracial couples such as my mom and dad from marriage would be unthinkable. John and I, and both our families, believe that someday soon all loving couples will have the freedom to marry.
Sonia and Gina:
"We worry about the same things"
Real people. Real families. This is the face of Marriage Equality.
For Children Who Share My Story from Emery in Ohio
Hi, My name is Emery, I'm 22 years old and I'm from Ohio. I support equal marriage rights because my parents are gay. They raised me together my whole life, giving me a stable, loving, nurturing home of great quality that I continue to enjoy.
It is my parents' unparalleled unity and support that made our family healthy and happy for my whole life. However, if some tragedy had befallen either one of my parents during my childhood our family would have been seriously threatened. Custody of me would have been granted to my biologically-related family before it would have been granted to my non-biological parent, which would have worsened an already tragic situation for both me and my surviving parent.
Luckily, our family hasn't been victim to any tragedies, but my parents have never enjoyed the rights that married couples have, despite living together for nearly 25 years and raising me jointly.
It is for children who share my story, and adults who share my parents' story that I stand for marriage equality. Love makes a family.
Xavier and Michael
Real people. Real families. This is the face of Marriage Equality.
I'm a Californian who voted no on Prop 8 (my whole family did) and I was furious when it passed. It hurt me both ideologically and personally, because I attend a small church that has a large percentage of gays and lesbians in its congregation, and even has a lesbian pastor. Though I am not Christian and joined the church mostly for socialization reasons, they all welcomed me with open arms and have shown only interest and acceptance of my differing beliefs. They are all such wonderful people that I find it more painful than ever to think that they aren't allowed to marry, which is a right every human being should have.
In addition to proudly wearing a White Knot, I made enough for the whole congregation and explained to them what the campaign is about. A lot of White Knots can be seen every Sunday in this wonderful church. They are grateful to me for bringing this excellent show of support and humanity to their attention, and I'm grateful in turn to those who organized the White Knot campaign. Thank you.
I'm a 21 year old woman and currently am in Iraq. My fiance is here with me too. It is such a blessing that we were able to deploy together and be on the same base so we can see each other every day. But I recently found out that I have orders to go to another country in October. Unfortunately, my finance can not go with me because we're not married.
I share this story with you because I know that many people have a hard time with not being able to get married. I just want everyone to know that it's incredibly hard on a military couple. We could get separated by thousands of miles like myself and my finance are about to be and there's nothing we can do to stop it because we still can not officially come out and say we are lesbians. I urge everyone to continue to support gays and lesbians in the military. I pray every day that America will wake up and see that it doesn't matter who you are or who you love; love is love and that's all that matters.