Inspiration on Maryland Marriage Equality and the Work Ahead
February 21, 2012 by Guest contributor
This post comes from Gwen Migita, co-chair of HRC's Greater Washington D.C. Political & Community Outreach
As someone who went through enormous emotional and spiritual struggle with my sexual orientation as a teen and young adult in college, I could not at that age have fathomed being an advocate for LGBT rights – let alone, marriage equality. As an Asian Pacific Islander with Baptist roots, I was expected to not speak out about my orientation. To try to convince others to do so was the ultimate embarrassment and humiliation for a larger group of people more important than me.
Several months ago I was approached by Roxanne Goldberg, a freshman at George Washington University, with the idea of forming an Intercollegiate Council – its mission would be to help pass marriage equality in Maryland by activating Maryland, DC and Virginia-based students. As an 18-year-old straight woman, Roxanne seemed to be inspired by the simple truth that the inability of gay and lesbian couples to marry was an injustice to humanity.
The council was positioned to kick off around the start of the Maryland legislative session to quickly activate students to volunteer with HRC and Marylanders for Marriage Equality. Several Council events were set up each week – calling into Maryland households, knocking on doors, data processing voter pledge cards, and participating in lobby days at the state capitol – right up to the night of the House vote.
Over the course of the campaign, I came across several other students who inspired me to think again about the possibility of LGBT rights and the pace of marriage equality. John*, an 18-year old black gay freshman at a college in Maryland, lives in a conservative county of the state. Several days a week, John found the time to canvass door-to-door to convince voters to sign pledge cards asking legislators to support marriage equality. This young man volunteered on the campaign against the will of his mother, who is an activist in her own right but is still opposed to her son being outspoken on gay rights issues.
I was particularly moved by Mahesh, a straight South-Asian man working on his Ph.D., who attended a Lobby Day at the state capitol with me. Having grown up in a conservative area of Maryland, Mahesh attended university with a key delegate opposed to marriage equality. In front of a large group of gay and lesbian couples, families and affirming clergy, Mahesh shared that as an expectant father it would be a travesty for any elected official to deny the rights of his son or daughter for who they were. It was, in fact, a legislator’s responsibility to provide the same protections and opportunities to his child whether he or she was born straight or gay.
It is these salient moments and newfound volunteers and friends that inspire me press ahead over the next eight months toward a likely voter referendum on marriage in Maryland. We’re well aware of the uphill battle ahead and the immense support for marriage equality. However, I’ve found that the surprising challenge is to get supporters – particularly those not in school – to volunteer on the field campaign, show up to a rally or host a house party to activate their friends or relatives. I hope that you’ll join me in being inspired and to make “what’s right” happen in the months ahead.
To learn more about the HRC Intercollegiate Council working in the greater Washington DC area, click here. To get involved in the campaign to win and protect marriage equality in Maryland, visit http://www.hrc.org/states/maryland or contact Gwen Migita at [email protected].
*name changed for confidentiality
May 18, 2013