BALTIMORE—When my husband and I headed to our polling place this morning we took along something extra: Our children. Previously we’ve opted to vote unencumbered by the whirling dervishes of energy that our children are, but this time around we felt a need for them to be a part of what could be an historic vote—and I don’t just mean electing Barry O to a second term.
You see, while I occasionally send in reports to the Alibi about the goings-on in DC I actually live on the Maryland side. And this year’s Maryland ballot features Question 6, a referendum on extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Maryland passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in February; opponents (shocker!) of the bill submitted signatures for the referendum in June. The bill not only allows for same-sex couples to be granted marriage rights, but also includes language guaranteeing religious organizations will not have to gay marry anyone. Question 6 has received support from African-American religious groups; a demographic considered pivotal in securing enough votes to once and finally recognize, legally, the inherent humanity of a group long discriminated against. Maryland has the best chance, so far, of passing such a referendum.
What does this have to do with dragging our five-and-seven-year-old sugar-boogars to a school gymnasium while mommy and daddy perform their civic duty? Did I want to share a warm, fuzzy, feel-good moment as we held hands, touched “yes”, shared a knowing smile and patted ourselves on the back for being open-minded? Or, perhaps, I didn’t want to take the chance that living in a blue county in a blue state wasn’t enough and wanted to model good progressive behavior for them? Not quite.
I took them along so they would have to walk past the people who have been fighting for their rights for too long and who were making that one last appeal to voters, who had smiles on their faces as they asked voters to see them as equals. I wanted them to walk past the people next to them who were asking voters to deny LGBTQ citizens any recognition of full equality under the law.
My husband and I ushered them into the booths with us so they could see us vote for something that should never have been put to a vote. We read the ballot out loud to them and explained why we were voting yes, why this was so important. We did everything we could think of to make sure these tiny people remember the day their parents went to the polls and agreed to legally treat LGBTQ citizens like everybody else.
We want them to remember this moment as past generations have remembered voting to extend rights to women, African-Americans and other disenfranchised groups. We want them to remember this moment because we hope this is the last generation that votes on who is equal and deserving of rights. Rights! We want them to be the generation that finally understands that we don’t have the right to vote on someone’s rights; the first generation to fully understand what equality means; the first generation to fully enjoy equality, equally.