NOM Tour Tracker: Vignettes from the front lines on Day 1
July 15, 2010
By Eden James
At this very moment, Courage staffers Danny Segura and Robert Oliver are on their way to the next NOM tour stop in Manchester, New Hampshire. They’ve been going nonstop since Tuesday when they flew out to Maine from California. After Courage was able to raise the funds from supporters across the country to make their trip possible, Danny and Robert managed to clear schedules, hop planes, and jump hurdles to make it in time to New England for the commencement of NOM’s “Summer for Marriage 2010: One Man, One Woman Tour.” If there was an “Amazing Race: Equality Movement edition,” they would be excellent candidates.
Danny and Robert have emailed me several personal vignettes from the road, as they’ve had time to write them, starting with their flight.
On the plane, Danny, a proud gay Latino man, wrote:
As we take off, I look back to Robert who is a row behind me. I smile as he has made a connection with a stranger. He is sitting next to a straight, middle-aged, compassionate, African-American woman. She asks him why he is traveling to Boston and he answers truthfully. They are having a deep conversation regarding marriage equality: respectfully, intelligently, with open ears and hearts. Though they have very different perspectives they find a balanced place to speak from. They are laughing now. A middle-aged African-American woman from Boston and a Jewish-American, twenty-year old from Burbank (Robert) connecting on fundamental civil rights somewhere above Texas. This is the America I am proud to be a part of.
Wednesday morning, Danny and Robert arrived in Maine, first to attend Equality Maine’s 10:30 a.m. press conference, including an appearance from Gov. John Baldacci, followed by the NOM rally at 12 pm. Here are a few moments from Day 1 in Maine, along with some pics (with more to come, as they post more pics and videos in between tour stops).
Danny’s initial take on Equality Maine and GLAD’s press conference in Augusta prior to the NOM rally:
Upon entering the Hall of Flags in the State House (Maine’s Capital building) the solidarity, the love, the unity and calm that the LGBT activist community demonstrated gave me a palpable high. Despite the defeat of Question 1 on the 2010 ballot, “defeated” would not be a word I would use to describe this powerful group. Clad all in red, the activists on the steps of the capital were a moving presence — an extended family holding one another up.
Governor John Baldacci addressed the activists by thanking them for their work on ‘No on 1’ as well as stating that his involvement in that campaign was some of the work he is most proud of in his political career. The press conference ended with the activists singing a rousing rendition of “We shall overcome.” I carried that song in my heart as I made my way across the street to the NOM rally.
Robert’s even more personal experience of the Equality Maine event:
I am already proud to be a part of this crowd; people are talking and laughing. They are playing with and loving their children. The energy here is warm, welcoming, and inclusive. All dressed in red, the marriage equality activists take their places along the central staircase of the Maine State House.
I notice a woman wearing a Tea Party-esque outfit, replete with flag hat, buttons, and yellow ribbons. Suspecting she was a NOM supporter, I ask her how she is enjoying the rally. She looks me up and down and replies that she came with “Jesus, the son of God who died for all of us.”
Seeing the blue Star of David around my neck, she smiles and says “shalom,” Hebrew for peace. Later, I find her sitting across the room, protesting the press conference — her sign’s condemnation of my “destructive lifestyle” being a strong contrast to her embrace of my Jewish background.
Robert’s take on the NOM rally:
As we made our way across the lawn, Daniel and I spotted the crowd, and decided to approach it separately, hoping to remain inconspicuous. As we moved through the crowd, heads turned as the homogeneous group met two out-of-place Los Angeles gay rights activists. A woman behind me proclaimed that at the very least, Jesus Christ was there to support them.
Compared to the marriage equality rally, the mood at this gathering was bitter and angry. These folks weren’t smiling. They stood awkwardly, clapping at inappropriate times. With the exception of small children, Dan and I were the youngest by at least a generation. There was not a single attendee who was a person of color; all attending were white, old, and conservatively dressed. Some carried signs proclaiming homosexuality a sin; many wrapped themselves in the flag.
Ironically, the Executive Director of NOM, Brian Brown, invoked the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., equating their organization’s “struggle” for religious freedom to that of an oppressed minority. Brown, a white Christian male, stated that he and his audience of white Christians stood in solidarity with African Americans, a majority of whom do not support same-sex marriage, according to polling. It’s an interesting comparison, given that conservatives were strongly against inter-racial marriage before the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court ruling struck down laws banning it.
What Danny said was the “quote of the day” from the NOM rally in Augusta:
“The public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers and their children and to one another…without that purpose for marriage you wouldn’t need it… by the time these guys are done redefining marriage…this is your take away… there will be nothing left of marriage but a government registry of friendships.” — Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ruth Institute
Uh, where does one even begin? Let us know what you think in the comments.
More to come, as Day 2 commences…