As I approached the line outside my neighborhood voting poll Wednesday, a middle-age woman handed me a brochure opposing
“Question 6,” a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. I assured her that my mind was already made up. She extended the brochure once more, and I tucked it in a book to read later – just as a reminder of what the opposition had to say.
I had already planned to support gay marriage for two good reasons – Dan and Jarrett, partners in an interracial gay relationship. I worked with them years ago, and they were among the kindest, most efficient, light-hearted colleagues I ever had. They had already been together 25 years when I met them, and I had often commented that they seemed more loving toward each other than some heterosexual couples I knew. They should be able to honor their commitment with an official marriage license like anyone else, I figured. They should be able to share benefits and ensure each other’s well-being, too. When same-sex legislation came up in the District in 2009, I assured them I fully supported the measure as the D.C. Council deliberated a “marriage equality” law. I was working with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) at the time and happily promoted a huge reception she hosted in the Capitol to celebrate passage of the bill.
Secretly, I have long admired the courage gay individuals have to love who they love – even when it rubs conventional wisdom and religious norms. Casting my vote for same-sex marriage this week was a way for me to honor that courage. So, throughout this campaign season, I have ignored the anti-Question 6 ads warning against “redefining marriage.”
Standing in line to cast my vote, I overheard three voters behind me debating what’s wrong with America these days, and when they agreed that not everyone is intelligent enough to vote and not everyone deserves a vote, my ears perked up.
“It used to be you had to own property to vote,” I overheard the woman in the group say.
“There was a reason for that,” one of the men agreed. They went on to discuss the merits of the Constitution — some of it should be amended, parts of it never should have been amended, they said — and all I could think of was: There was a time when a majority of folks in America believed blacks should not have full citizenship; there was a time when people believed women should not have full citizenship. The line was moving too slowly; I couldn’t wait to cast my vote to extend full citizenship to men and women who happen to be gay and lesbian.
I was glad that President Obama had come out in support of same-sex marriage in May, even though it meant some church leaders speaking against him, due to this particular stance.
In Maryland, the black vote is considered the deciding vote on Question 6 and the two other controversial measures: extended gambling and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, according to a Baltimore Sun article. While a Washington Post poll found last month that Question 6 is generally supported by state residents, the poll also found that blacks still oppose the measure 53 percent to 42 percent.
I hope some minds were opened by civil rights leader and former NAACP president Julian Bond’s commercial supporting same-sex marriage. I hope the measure prevails.
I have not discussed this issue with most of my heterosexual friends, assuming that most of them hold fast to their traditional, conservative, religious beliefs. But I did ask for the opinion of a couple of my relatives who live in Prince George’s County, where the issue has been hotly debated.
One of my relatives, 70-plus-years-old, said he’s totally against it because he thinks same-sex couple will confuse children and particularly the children of same-sex couples. “More often than not, children follow what their parents do,” he said, explaining that he and his siblings voted Republican many years simply because their parents had.
I was surprised, however, at the opinion of my middle-age uncle, Sharrieff Tate, of Upper Marlboro. “I think two grown people should be able to do what the hell they want to do, as long as they’re not hurting anybody,” said my uncle, who used to be one of those bow-tie-wearing, newspaper-selling teens. He’s outgrown a lot of things, and this latest indication of his progressiveness hit my funny bone. “Basically, I think two consenting adults should be able to live the lifestyle they choose.”
I totally agree.
More from The Root DC