Sunday, February 27, 2011

Del. Mary Washington on Marriage Equality

Like all of you, I ran for Delegate because I wanted to make a difference, to make life better for the people in our state. And we find ourselves in a historic moment, hopefully poised to do just that, make life better for all Marylanders by recognizing everyone’s long-term commitments with the legal freedom to marry.

While we’re all here for the same thing, I also stand before you today with a very particular perspective on equality. As an African-American, same gender-loving, woman, I live in myriad systems of inequity. Yet I prefer to consider my particular viewpoint as an opportunity; an opportunity to see how people like me are disadvantaged by systems, yes, but also how people like me work so hard to create communities of love and support in spite of those systems. People like me who create loving families. People like me who create long and loving partnerships. People like me who yearn for the state to recognize those families, those partnerships, with the same love we feel for each other.

We all have heard stories from our LGBT constituents about the injustices, humiliation, and pain they have suffered because they could not legally marry. Partners tossed out of hospital rooms and refused visitation, partners losing homes and children upon their partners’ deaths, partners who have difficulty in both parents having legal relationships to their own children. Unfortunately, those stories are endless. Currently, instead of our state protecting these relationships, loving and committed couples are treated by our state as if they never met each other, as if the decades they spent honoring and loving each other never happened. These people are my people, my friends, my community. Their pain is real, colleagues, and we have the power to end it.

I was a fortunate person when I came out as a lesbian to my parents, in that they, along with my five brothers and sisters, have all been supportive and loving. We were raised Catholic and all now have a relationship with a spiritual path, and see that relationship as one of love and of appreciating brave souls who work hard for freedom. You all sit in an amazing moment in history now, where your bravery will be remembered and honored. Your courageousness in continuing Maryland’s tradition of righting social injustices is before you now and I urge you to consider the opportunity you now have; an opportunity to honor our families, our loving partnerships; the opportunity to embrace us with the loving arms of the state rather than letting us dangle out of its grasp any longer.

I’d like to conclude with a quote from Howard Thurman, black activist, ordained Baptist minister, and religious studies professor at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges in the 1920s: “The movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men and women often calls them to act against the spirit of their times or causes them to anticipate a spirit which is yet in the making. In a moment of dedication they are given wisdom and courage to dare a deed that challenges and to kindle a hope that inspires.”

Let us all enact that courage together and vote for marriage equality. Thank you.