Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wyoming is not open for business for some of us

Rev. Rodger McDaniel organized a protest today against anti-gay-marriage bills in The Equality State Legislature. The rally, scheduled for 1 p.m. on the State Capitol steps, was initially supposed to feature a burning of Rodger and Patricia McDaniel’s 34-year-old marriage license. When that began circulating on the Facebook invite, there was a hint of concern but most thought it was a great symbolic act. Flashback to the draft card burnings of the sixties and the bra burnings of the seventies. As far as I know, not too many protestors of those eras were actually burned or harmed in any way. There were, to our disgrace,  self-
immolations of Buddhist monks in Saigon and at least one within sight of the White House in D.C.

We live in a different era. The Capitol Police, which are Wyoming Highway Patrol officers, said absolutely no burning of things on the Capitol grounds.


Rodger, always creative, found an electronic paper shredder and brought it to the Capitol along with a very long extension cord.

Turnout was 50-60 people, straight and LGBT. My wife Chris was there. We got married in a fever almost 29 years ago, and are still together through thick and thin. Our 17-year-olod daughter was there, too. She has many gay friends. She thinks all of this is so stupid she can barely stand it. A number of legislators were there, too, including at least one Republican.

What follows are quotes from my notes scribbled on this windy day in Cheyenne. I vouch for their accuracy. 

My commentary is noted in parentheses.

Jaren Artery, Wyoming Equality: I live in this city and this state. I want to fight for what’s right. Been here for three weeks (monitoring these bills). I ask: how does this legislation benefit anyone? Takes group of minorities and says, “You can’t have what everyone else has.” That is wrong. It’s real people that this will hurt. My friends ask, “How can you stand these personal attacks?” We’ve been called “dry rot,” “abnormal,” “unnatural.” Means the world to us to have straight friends stand up for us.

Rep. Stan Blake, Democrat, Dist. 39, Green River, Baptist: I spoke against this bill in the House. I looked up at the Great Seal of the State of Wyoming and said, “there should be an asterisk on it.”

Rep. Joe Barbuto, Dist. 48, Rock Springs, Democrat, LDS: Before I left for the legislature, people asked me about jobs and about health care. They asked me about natural resources and clean air and water. Not one asked me “how are you going to infringe on equality for all.” My religion has been discriminated a lot in the past. (Knows what discrimination is).

Sen. Cale Case, Republican, Sen. Dist. 25, Lander: I’m glad that you are here. It will all happen at 3 p.m. today. Urge you to reach out and find your senators and show we’re all real people and we deserve equality.
This is The Equality State. We will prevail. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But it will be by Friday.

Rev. Rick Vite, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church rector, Cheyenne: This is a civil rights issue. (Equated it to civil rights struggles by women and African Americans and Hispanics and Jews.) There is a great sign in the Holocaust Museum in D.C. as you go out the door: “Don’t Forget.” We forget, each generation, about civil rights. Love is love.

Rep. Cathy Connolly, Democrat, House Dist. 13, only openly gay member of Wyoming Legislature: I joke with my colleagues: For all of you heterosexuals in the room – I guess there are a few of you. (This gets laughter and applause.)

Rev. Rodger McDaniel: 

Under this law, our brothers and sisters would be marginalized.
(Tells story of his gay brother who passed away a few years ago.)
Grew up in this community and felt out of synch with this culture.
Spent 20 years in San Francisco in a committed relationship. (Still tormented by the fact that he couldn’t live in his home state.)
I’ve been around these halls 44 years, as legislator, lobbyist, government official.
I’ve never seen such a radical piece of legislation.
Yesterday, when Gov. Mead announced the new wind energy business coming to Cheyenne, he said, “Wyoming is open for business. Well, Wyoming is not open for business for some of us.
This is radical language against gay marriage.
I’m here to ask legislators: Do you want to create such a black eye for the state of Wyoming?
(Talked about visiting Mt. Sinai Synagogue web site. Quote from the Torah. Moses vs. Pharoah. Pharoah has a pre-disposition to bigotry. We all do. Bigotry stays alive because people benefit from it.)
Bigotry knocks down the value of others. HB 74 knocks down the value of others.
HB 74 creates for heterosexuals a benefit of bigotry.  Gives certain rights to us, takes it away from others. Marriage license is a tool for discrimination. My wife and I have been married for 34 years. We’re not accepting this.
There will be a vote this afternoon. Talk to your senator. Discrimination is not O.K. That’s what makes America great – diversity.

Pat, Rodger’s wife, shreds $13 marriage license.  (Much applause)

Following this, Rep. Connolly lead Chris, Annie and I up to the Senate Chambers lobby so we can send message into our Senators on this issue. I talked to Sen. Fred Emerich, a newly-elected Republican in Dist. 5, who says he is voting no. “I was the only one to vote no out of committee,” he told me before getting back to the Senate Chamber. (Note: He was the only Repub in the committee to vote no.)

Later in the day, I heard that the Senate vote was 17-12 for HB 74. Barnard didn't vote, thus the odd number. Nay votes were Burns, Case, Von Flatern, Emerich, Hastert, Esquibel, Rothfuss, Martin, Schiffer, Nicholas, Scott, Landen. Thanks to these senators. We have more work to do with the others.

Find contact info here.

Cross-posted on Daily Kos.

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