It is a bit hard listening as our nation grapples with the role of religion in government and the right of religious institutions to define marriage, or to grant or deny marriage to me or to people I love. Right now too, debate rages about how we make change and who has to be at the table to get down this last bit of road to legal equality. Do we need anti-gay religious leaders at the nation's table or will that set us back and turn progress into hate?
I don't think we can deny that if we want equality, we have to change some minds. President Obama surely knows he has to change some minds.
On most issues like employment discrimination our country is there with us in agreement that firing people because they are gay is wrong. On marriage we are tipping in a balance. Those who have lived in states where we can marry, seem to find the ominous mystery gone. In other states the level of comfort is not yet there. The conversation has not been had.
Real change is a process. As a law maker, I know well that to pass the actual laws (which community organizers and brave people for decades have worked to prepare the ground for,) we still need to remind Congress how ready our nation is for change. We need huge numbers of people to stand up with us on the issue of legal equality. We as a community need to be visible and to ask our straight friends to help.
Sadly, laws are a measure of progress long over due, but they alone can't protect every one of us in every small town from Burley, Idaho to Bangor Maine. We need national leaders and neighbors who stand up with us before we will get there.
To see real change, those who still hate or fear us as gay people have to see us as human and see our lives through our eyes just a little.
Getting there is slow. It takes time and serious patience to listen to another person's story and to hear it without judgement and make sure they hear a bit of your story as well. Remember that people are raised to hate. It is not spontaneous. You have to be willing to know you won't change someone's mind in one conversation, which means of course that if you are disrespectful in that first conversation you never get to come back and keep working at helping them see what it is like to have a government nullify your marriage or stand by when you are harassed or fired from a job you loved for no other reason than that you happen to be gay.
I would never say we can not be angry. In an era where our culture so seems to embrace our roles in art, science, politics, education, sports and the military, how can our government stand by while a very few work to deny us legal equality? I still get teary listening to NPR trying to comprehend how anyone could go so far as to intentionally hurt loving people who are just trying to live their lives and protect their families under the law.
We can't pretend we are not angry. How can we not be angry sometimes right now? But to get this last distance to legal equality, we as gay people will have to be very disciplined. We have to be calm and focused on the change we have to bring.
It may feel frightening, but if we want a seat at the table we will will have to sit down with people we don't agree with, with some who have not shown us respect in the past. We can not change every mind, but by calmly organizing and working hard to show what is lost to this culture without our contributions, to show the harm from the laws and amendments passed, and to accept that good people can have awful beliefs, we can I think help our country travel this last bit of road.