Today I intended to scoot down the block to Columbus Pride 2009 in order to interview the folks down at the Skreened booth. Skreened, a national print-on-demand outlet for ethically-made t-shirts, centers its production here in Columbus, Ohio and not only features t-shirts for local LGBT organizer Stonewall Columbus but also is participating in the Columbus Pride 2009 festival with a booth full of gay and lesbian-themed shirts. I thought it would be fun to chat with the folks there, take a few pictures, and feature links to the most clever shirts along with some discussion of Skreened’s relationship to social change.
That was the plan, but in over an hour of walking about under the hot sun looking for that Skreened booth, I didn’t find it. That doesn’t mean Skreened wasn’t there; it is, rather, a testament to the scale of the Columbus Pride event in 2009.
A fair chunk of space of the Columbus Pride 2009 festival was taken for celebration with music, food or merchandise. Everything from mesh shirts to rainbow leashes and doggie shirts proclaiming “I Have 2 Mommies” could be found in the shade of one tent or another. But I was startled by the size of the activist presence at this event. There were organizations that advocated for queer issues particularly, and the predominant issue occupying available literature, petitions and calling lists was that of same-sex marriage. But there were groups with a broader mandate that made a presence at the pride festival, too. The ACLU was there. The Libertarian Party had a presence, too.
And then there was the booth of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. When I saw her booth, I thought that her office would have been there in some voter registration effort, or as a way of spreading the word about nondiscrimination laws in Ohio. But as I checked her booth out, I noticed that the prevalence of campaign materials; Jennifer Brunner is running for the United States Senate. Brunner’s twitter account (“yes,” she writes, “it is really me”) and campaign blog confirm that this was a campaign event for Jennifer Brunner for Senate.
Consider who we Ohioans had for a Secretary of State just a few years ago — the Bible-thumping Ken Blackwell — and this is an astonishing shift. Just two years ago, it seemed that same-sex marriage was a no-touch issue for Democrats and a winner for Republicans. Now we have a candidate for the United States Senate in the supposedly culturally conservative state of Ohio campaigning with an explicit platform plank of marriage equality:
I support Marriage Equality as a matter of civil rights. Civil rights, including marriage, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals are human rights. LGBT people must be ensured their basic equal rights, so that they can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
But Jennifer Brunner hasn’t stopped there. She very clearly isn’t just giving a ritual nod to same-sex marriage (and how interesting that support for same-sex marriage could even be considered a “ritual nod” now). She’s written a paragraphs-long essay that goes beyond a tepid position to declare boldly, “What’s there to ‘Get’ about Marriage Equality?”. Brunner writes:
I have trouble getting past the fact that it has to be so complicated for people in same-sex couples. Questions such as “Can we file our taxes as married?” and “Should we register as domestic partners in multiple jurisdictions?” and “How do survivor benefits for domestic partnership benefits work?” to “Marriage for Same-sex Couples: Considerations for Employers,” leave my head spinning. And this is all about who you decide to love and commit yourself to. Why is it different for some people when civil rights and the protection of individual freedoms are the bedrock of the most special democracy in the history of the world?
…The founding document of the American Revolution leading to the birth of the United States contains the basic tenet that each person is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For LGBT couples, the right to marry is elemental. It is time to make that right available to all American couples, whether they are heterosexual or same-sex. This is a family values issue.
For those LGBT couples who have children, the problems become even greater without the right of marriage. As the number of LGBT-headed families continues to increase, so does the necessity for marriage equality for them and their children.
Marriage equality is critical for stable families and the welfare of children in changing social environments. When the commitment and rights of marriage are not available to a couple facing difficult times, an unexpected breakup or death can shatter an LGBT family, leaving not just the partners, but also the children, vulnerable and at risk of even greater emotional, social and financial loss.
Custody issues for LGBT couples with children but without marriage are fraught with uncertainty. Jurisdictional differences, the respective starting points of the parties (was one member of the couple coming out of a heterosexual relationship?), attitudes of some judges toward LGBT individuals and whether the parent is biological or adoptive often affect the outcome.
…I continue to simmer when I think of the recent legislative and constitutional amendments specifically denying equal rights to LGBT citizens that were initiated by political operatives to stoke the fires of hatred and division among ordinary citizens who would otherwise be living without this heightened and unnecessary rancor and dissension. I continue to simmer as I recognize that these actions were initiated primarily for the purpose of retaining power by a small group of people who have hurt many innocents, LGBT and straight alike, for their selfish and greedy purposes. We have not benefited from this, and it is time for marriage equality to be available to all, straight or LGBT. We are a community, and in these times, we must support and depend on each other as people do in a real community.
In a state said to be an electoral barometer, this not only forthright but clearly impassioned advocacy for same-sex marriage is both notable and commendable. If Brunner succeeds at winning a seat in the U.S. Senate from Ohio with such a clear statement on the subject of same-sex marriage, she’ll have a mandate to push for change as one of 100; her victory will be a clear signal for similarly-minded, perhaps meeker candidates that it really is all right to advocate for equality in America.to