Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A long day at the New Jersey State House

I'm still collecting my thoughts from what turned out to be a particularly long day at the New Jersey State House in Trenton yesterday. I was there along with well over one thousand fellow Garden State Equality members to make our presence felt and accompany our side's testimony on behalf of the state civil marriage equality bill (S1967) being considered by the senate judiciary committee. I got there at 6:30 AM and didn't leave until 8:00 PM, at which time the hearing was still going on and would continue to go on for at least another couple of hours.

There were many things I experienced that angered or saddened me, things that made me realize just how much willful ignorance of our laws, our foundational principles, and common decency and respect still prevail in our society. But there were some high points as well: I was met with a smile and a nod from a senator running to get lunch when he saw me wearing my Garden State Equality t-shirt. I got to spend the day with friends old and new (Rich, Rick, Boaz, Jane: you're all beautiful people). I shared my cancer experience with Rich, who proved all the more just how caring and compassionate man he is. I got to have a few moments of levity and silliness (I guess that's why we're called "gay") with my friends. I got to listen to powerful testimony from private citizens, supportive luminaries from the worlds of politics and public affairs, and a particularly rousing speech from Civil Rights legend Julian Bond.

Finally, as the evening wore on, I found myself in a small overflow room sitting next to Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey ACLU. We shared some pizza, laughed at some of the funnier aspects of the day, we talked at length, and wondered when she would finally get to testify. It turned out she got her chance, the very last person to testify that day. I had let my ACLU membership lapse, much to my shame. I have so many charitable interests that I'm in danger of losing track of them all. But not in this case. Today I renewed my membership so I could justifiably say that I'm a proud member of the ACLU. And that's because I believe, fiercely, in individual freedom and dignity. I close with Deborah's own recollections from the overflow room: http://www.bluejersey.com/diary/13762/reflections-from-the-overflow-room

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