Our first dip into activism came just before the push in the Utah legislature to put a constitutional amendment to forbid our legal marriage on the ballot. I was speaking out against a bill aiming to do the same in regular law up on capitol hill.
After that and once the push to make that bill into an amendment began, I was asked by a representative to give the opening prayer for the legislative day, as an open gay man and father. She wanted them to have to see me.
To put this in context, not many legislators came to hear my testimony... Okay, hardly any came; they didn't want to hear what they were doing to people and were seemingly content with the assessment Senator Buttars provided of gay families (or what's the term he prefers? Child abuse collectives?). He gave them all some pamphlet about what the gays do in bed. He knows, see.
I'm sure none of them wanted to be near enough to a gay man that hand shaking might become a possibility after reading that, let alone to have to consider his family in their legislation.
Anyway, so here was a chance for me to have a captive audience. They'd have to see a gay father, without warning. They'd have to know they were going to hurt someone real. They'd have to know more about our lives and concerns than they got from the paper or the news the day after they didn't show up to hear what we had to say. They'd have to see we shared some common ground.
Sure, that may be very little, but it's something. Consider that the bill passed by one vote.
I'm ashamed to admit I was tempted. I was. I thought out some justifications: "I'm not an atheist; I can say a prayer as an agnostic, can't I?" "It's no big deal. I at least know what faith feels like..." "This could soften some hearts; a prayer without faith is the lesser of two evils."
I came close, so close that that episode is something I'll keep as a constant reminder of how weak I can be. It's something to weigh me down when I start to float.
Nevertheless, I didn't do it. I called the representative and told her I couldn't do it, that it would be improper. She ended up using her turn to select an Episcopal for the person giving the prayer, straight man though.
I didn't do it because, as an agnostic pretending to speak to anyone in prayer, I would have been selling out one of my core principles, my respect for democracy and science in epistemology. I would be doing that for possible political gain. Equal treatment, sure, is another of my core principles, but I don't want it reached that way. Some sins can spoil the best blessings.
Still, I wonder to this day, what if there was just that one legislator on the brink, thinking of gay men as shallow club hoppers with no more need of marriage rights and responsibilities than the average fraternity brother. What if they never thought gay men were men of family, and dedication, that they weren't parents, parents terrified of how their government is treating their home. Could a sliver have made a difference? Probably not, but...
That brings me to yesterday. I opened the mail and found a thank you card from my representative, now running for senate. I donated to their campaign last month, just a couple years after refusing to even put up a lawn sign for them because they voted for Amendment 3. I donated not because I now like this person; I donated because I want to break the super majority the republicans have in the senate. In short, the thank you made me feel a bit dirty, unexpectedly; it made me feel like I feel when I think back to considering that prayer.
One must be careful. I have to be careful. It seems there's no greater a population, per capita, of lesser evils than in politics.
Of course I can't support the republican here, she's worse on most of the issues I care about. And at least this representative knows my disappointment, we've talked numerous times and even their campaign staff knows me by face and name (they must have some sort of malcontent constituent file?). I'm sure she can easily guess why we've donated now, and knows we're not now anti-gay rights...
Still, for some reason, I'd rather have not been told thank you; that thank you lowered my opinion of my self, just enough to sting.