HRC Blog

HRC: Why I Volunteer

This post comes from Jonathan Fetherolf, a Steering Committee member with HRC Colorado:

Like many Coloradans, I’m a transplant to this beautiful state. My then-partner and I moved here in 2010 to start a life together and take advantage of Colorado’s great outdoors with our dogs and, hopefully one day, our children. There was a lot of promise in starting anew and discovering a life together. Unfortunately, there were a couple of issues that always divided us, and one of those was the issue of marriage. Although Colorado seems to have something to offer everyone, it is one of 38 states that explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.

My former partner was very religious and came from a religious family, one that both expected and appreciated a ceremony. And while I can appreciate the sentiment of a ceremony, raised religiously myself, it had offended me in some way to envision spending so much money (or any money at all) in a place that seemingly didn’t want to afford me the same rights as its other citizens. It was insulting to think that the sales tax on such a large expenditure as a ceremony would reinforce the attitude of a place that rendered it moot. Unfortunately, this was a divisive issue that contributed to the demise of our very important, very loving relationship. It’s a sad story to tell, and one that never should have to be told.

But it’s not Colorado or its government that created this state for people like me and my former partner. Here in the referendum-heavy West, governments’ powers tend to be much more restricted by the will of voters than in other parts of the country, and it's often the special interests of a small handful of voters at that. In this case, it seems that Amendment 43, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman in Colorado and passed with 55 percent of the vote in 2006, was widely pushed by conservative religious groups from around the state. I have to believe that it could have been defeated with better awareness on behalf of Coloradans, who have largely proven themselves to be kind, level-headed people in my many interactions with them all throughout this state’s borders. Awareness, after all, is the best antidote to the ignorance that often breeds such bigotry.

And so I decided to do something about inequality, and looked to get involved with HRC. There weren’t enough people to stand up and speak on my behalf in 2006, to recognize inequality in action and the need to do something about it, and I’m just as much to blame for that as anyone else. I had long thought these issues would all work themselves out and hadn’t even taken the time to advance the causes of my own LGBT community. Until, that is, I saw where inequality got me. Had marriage not been defined as between one man and one woman in the state of Colorado, one less serious issue would have been weighing on my former relationship, and perhaps things could have worked out differently. And while the seemingly imminent approval of civil unions in Colorado or a federal repeal of DOMA won’t change my former relationship now, it will prevent struggles like these in the future, for myself and for others.

And this is why I volunteer. Inequality is a quiet social disease, one that’s easy to ignore or not even notice at all. Until, that is, it affects you. Nothing in this world changes until we do. 

Are you interested in volunteering with HRC Colorado? Contact us for more details at volunteers@hrccolorado.org.

Sign up to volunteer with other HRC communities at www.hrc.org/volunteer.

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