Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What price, equality?

I've been thinking a lot lately.

I've been thinking about what we need to do to win this battle for marriage equality come November 3. We're 69 days away from that date. I think that calls for something inspirational. Or inspired. Or maybe just a kick in the ass.

When I talk to people about the marriage vote coming up, I get lots of support. Good luck, they say. I'll donate. And they toss in $20 or $50. At a house party the other night, several people wrote checks for $100. That felt pretty cool, particularly since I gave the pitch and it was my first time doing so.

But now what? We raised $700 from that room. Good for us, certainly, but is that all we can hope for?

I guess the question I need to ask is "how much does this matter to us?"


How much are we willing to give up to achieve marriage equality in Maine?

Fifty bucks? A hundred?

Let's do some math.

Suppose one of the $100 check-writers at that party has an annual income of $30,000. In Maine, that's pretty typical, particularly of retirees and folks not in stuffy offices. Besides, it makes for easy math. $100 is what portion of that total?


one third of one percent.

Not to discredit the donors - I felt pretty good getting those checks for the campaign, but honestly, is that a gift or a bone?

How much should we be willing to give up to achieve this goal?

Is this a cause worth a one-time, feels-kinda-big donation, or is this a cause worth actual work?

Is this a cause worth being uncomfortable for? And what does that kind of discomfort look like?

I am not advocating that people sign over their entire paychecks between now and November 3, but let's consider giving up some portion of that paycheck every week.

How much is appropriate? I guess that depends on a lot of things. How much we make, what our expenses are, and what kind of value we put on being able to get married.

Is it worth 10 percent of my income between now and November 3 (call it 10 weeks) to to be able to get married? What about 10 percent of my income for the year?

My aunt is devout and she tithes to her church. This is the same church, coincidentally, that has pledged $2MILLION to keep Laura and I (and others like us, of course) from getting married.

Years ago, I used to make a donation to Planned Parenthood every time I heard her talk about giving to one right-to-life organization or another. Am I willing to try to counter her effort again?

Is it worth giving up 10 percent of my income for me to be able to get married? Of course it is. Getting married is what I want to do. I want the security of it, I want the dignity of it. I don't want to be a woman in my mid-40s still referring to my partner as my "girlfriend." People either look at me as though I am no more emotionally developed than a teenager or they think I'm talking about someone I get together with each morning to drink coffee and watch The View.

How much of what we get in income each year goes to some group or cause in which we believe? Along that same line, how much of our time is devoted to some effort on behalf of some higher cause? How many of us come home from work, eat dinner, stare at the TV or the computer for four hours and then sulk off to bed? Too many, I'd wager.

So, you and me. How much is this marriage thing worth to us?

We like to compare our effort to that of the civil rights movement. But truly, we don't act much like we value them the same. When the civil rights movement was in full swing, college kids took whole summers and traveled to the south to register black voters. They were harassed, beaten and sometimes even killed. The worst I've heard of our volunteers encountering was a group of construction guys who shouted slurs at a young man doing canvassing in a suburban neighborhood.

Nobody has been pulled over and arrested for no reason. Nobody has been beaten up. Nobody was chased with police dogs or sprayed with fire hoses. Nobody has been killed, or even threatened with death.

But it could be that we are more in tune with the idea that such incidents would be trumpeted in all directions by the media if they occurred, so maybe the haters are laying low because of that. I don't know.

What I do know is that we aren't having marches. (OK, there is one planned for October, but it is not getting a lot of press as yet.) We are not getting arrested at town offices for demanding marriage licenses. We are not blocking traffic or holding sit-ins in courthouses or anything that really marks a big movement.

We write checks for one-third of one percent of our income and feel that we have done our part.

"I already gave," we say when someone passes the basket.

Is that so?

Is that enough?

Is marriage equality just worth one-third of a penny of every dollar you make? That's it?

If that's how we do this, then we don't deserve marriage equality.

To deserve victory at the polls and marriage equality in Maine, we need to be more dedicated than anyone else. We need to dig deeper, work harder, knock on more doors, make more phone calls, and give more people rides to the polls.

Our opponents are dedicated, have no doubt. For them, this is a holy war, and all of Christianity and Western Civilization is at stake. If they do not win, surely the nation will crumble into a seething pit of moral decay. It will be like ancient Greece, they say... life as we know it will fall apart and civilization will be lost.

They believe it.

What do we believe?

Do we believe that this is right? Do we believe that this is the next right step toward true, honest, at-all-levels freedom and equality? Do we believe that marriage equality in Maine MUST be won, or there will be tragic and horrible consequences for the glbt movement?

Because if we don't believe that way, it will show in our actions and it will bite us in the ass come election day.

How much are we willing to give for civil rights?

In the past, civil rights have been earned with blood and abuse and non-violence and martyrs.

I'm not asking anyone to bleed or die for this. But I am asking us to give more than one-third of one percent of our income. How much do our opponents give? How often do they give?

Is it difficult to see them giving substantially, every week? Not at all.

If we want to win, we need to give substantially, and we need to give often. We need to give until it hurts. We need to sacrifice for this or it won't mean a thing.

You know the financial situation I'm in. It was pretty grim there for a while, and it's not all better yet, not by a long shot. I haven't got a lot of money coming in, and most of it is going to pay bills and catch us up on stuff we owe to a variety of sources. But still. Am I giving enough?

While I was working today, I made a decision. I pledge to donate 10 percent of all that I make between now and November 3 to the campaign. AND I pledge to donate 4 hours of each day to the campaign - making calls, coordinating house parties. And that's 7 days a week. I can give 28 hours of my life each week to this cause. Marriage is worth that to me.

That's 25% of my waking hours each week AND 10 percent of my pay that I am pledging. And still, it's not more than I can handle. One way or another, this thing will be over (for a while) in 69 days. I am willing to lose an hour's sleep here and there to make this happen. I am willing to forgo a meal out so that we can be married.

What are you willing to give? To let us get married? To maybe get married yourself? To make it so that others can be married? To grant us the dignity and respect and security that other couples have? What are you willing to give to do that? Are you willing to be inconvenienced? Are you willing to sacrifice? What is it worth to you?

Is it worth more than .003 of your income?

Now here's where to click to make that happen.

Now do it.

Because you know marriage equality is worth more than one-third of one percent of your income. You know it.


Carla Ganiel said...

I think this might be the finest thing you've ever written. I hope everyone who reads it sends the link to everyone they know. You are pretty amazing, Dawn.

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

Having seen a dictatorship fall to the will of the people while living in Thailand as a child, I learned that even against seemingly insurmountable odds, if we pull together we can accomplish amazing things.

Having seen many worthy issues defeated at the ballot box because too many gave up and said "my vote won't make a difference", I have developed a certain cynicism towards the very same popular activism I advocate.

No amount of money or rallies or eloquent blog posts will make any difference if we do not vote. We must resolve to place our vote, even where others may disagree or ridicule our beliefs or where we may be the *only* person in our neighborhood or town who votes the way we do.

Whom we wed is an immensely personal choice, and we must not give any government or organization
the ability to regulate or make this decision for us.

Keep fighting the good fight Dawn...and make sure everyone we know goes out to VOTE!

Leo MacCool said...

well, this hardly seems like a fitting comment for such a serious post.

but... you're tagged!

Dusty said...

As a resident of heathen California..I sincerely hope you guys win.

We thought we were gonna win hands down and look what went down.

The mormons outspent us and we figured people wouldn't give a shit what those fuckwits were spewing..but they did.

So we lost. I pray that your state doesn't go down the same road. Nothing is a slam dunk anymore when the religious wingnuts get involved..lying and obfuscating their fucking asses off.